Food for thought: politics with a side of pizza


A. Monta Vista student Alex Zhang explains his affirmative stance during the debate. B. Students Alan Tai and Saanvi Goyal from the negative side prepare to ask their cross-fire questions. C. Student organizers chat about the event during the intermission. D. Cupertino Mayor Darcy Paul talks to students about youth engagement in politics. E. Current FUHSD Board of Trustees Vice President Rosa Kim answers questions regarding equity and diversity in schools. F. City of Campbell Mayor Paul Resnikoff discusses the city’s policies for climate change.

Tanika Anbu, Staffer

Students and parents from Cupertino, Saratoga and Campbell munched on cheesy slices of pizza and spoke with their local representatives at the Pizza and Politics event at the Cupertino Community Hall on Oct. 21. Hosted by Campbell and Saratoga’s youth commissions and the Cupertino Youth Activity Board, the event allowed students to learn more about their city mayors and FUHSD board members while cultivating a community of politically-invested teenagers. The event was split into three sessions: the mayoral round table, an FUHSD board members forum and a high school student debate, allowing students to engage with local figures and ask their questions on a variety of levels. 

Advertised as “a political event for teens, by teens,” Pizza and Politics was intentionally held before the November midterm elections to emphasize to youth the importance of community and political engagement and prepare them to be educated voters. Voters get to help choose their city and school representatives, which is one of the opportunities highly encouraged at Pizza and Politics, since candidates appeared at the event to pitch themselves to city youth and make them feel involved in important issues. The midterm elections provide residents with an opportunity to help Calif. make decisions on policies for education, climate change, abortion, housing and other proposed amendments to the state constitution.

“Although the audience that Pizza and Politics caters to is too young to vote, their voice is still important when it comes to politics, and Pizza and Politics gives them a place to be heard by political speakers as well as like-minded youth and teens,” Saratoga Youth Commission Chair Nicole Hao said. 

Saratoga Mayor Tina Walia, Cupertino Mayor Darcy Paul and Campbell Mayor Paul Resnikoff spoke with students about current issues, like climate change and civic engagement, encouraging students to ask questions. Each mayor stressed the importance of student engagement in local government since young people will be the leaders and changemakers of the next generation. 

“It was really interesting to meet three mayors, let alone one,” freshman Ishika Chandra said. “I learned about their stances on issues like climate change and what it takes to be part of a Youth Commission.”

Afterward, four FUHSD board member candidates, Rosa Kim, Naomi Nakano-Matsumoto, Andrew Aaron Arness and Stanley Kou, spoke with students in an open discussion. Students asked the board members general questions that allowed all guests to give their input. They discussed a variety of topics including their views on equity and excellence, their goals around social and emotional wellness and more light-heartedly, their favorite boba orders. 

“It is intimidating to talk about politics with political figures,” freshman Joyce Cheung said. “But it was nice to understand that they are just normal people. Seeing them make pop culture references, for example, made me realize that they are actual people trying to help our community.” 

The event concluded with four Monta Vista High School students holding a public forum debate on gasoline-powered vehicles in Calif. Students from both the affirmative and negative sides composed well-detailed arguments and extracted facts from each other’s cases through the cross-fire rounds. Proponents argued that Calif. should pursue the 2035 Advanced Clean Cars II rule, but the negative side won the debate after a brief deliberation from the judges from the Campbell and Saratoga teen commissions. 

“Students are the reason we are here,” said current FUHSD Board of Trustees Vice President Rosa Kim. “Our students bring unique insights and ideas into how we can improve our schools, which is why students’ perspectives are important when making decisions.”

To entice students to participate in discussions, youth organizers presented attendees with a large selection of pizzas. Between bites of cheese and bell-pepper-topped pizza, students conversed with each other during the intermissions.

Though politics is typically thought of as an adult topic, the organizers of Pizza and Politics aim to debunk this misconception and foster an environment where students can meet people from neighboring cities and find a community in which they can express themselves. 

“As a high school student, you are given the best opportunities to evolve and contribute to society to become the best citizen in this country,” FUHSD board election candidate Stanley Kou said. “It is important to start early.” 

The entire event was recorded and posted on the City of Cupertino’s YouTube channel to simulate what it is like for a news channel to cover political events. The Youth Commissions will join forces again in 2024 to discuss more political topics and dig into their next pie.