The Kid in Charge

March 2, 2018
Ready to Lead Dom Peters is sworn in as Oregon’s first Kid Governor.
ANNA REED—STATESMAN-JOURNAL/AP

Many kids have been bullied. Fifth grader Dom Peters decided to do something about it. He ran for office.

On January 8, Dom, 11, was sworn in as Oregon’s first Kid Governor, at the State Capitol, in Salem. Fifth graders across the state elected him from among eight finalists in Oregon’s first annual Kid Governor contest. Its aim is to teach students about government, voting, and the responsibilities of citizenship.

Dom ran his campaign on an antibullying platform. It appealed to kid voters. “I’ve seen a lot of bullying, and I’ve been bullied,” Dom told reporters at his first press conference. “I want to stop it.”

Oregon’s Kid Governor program is one of many efforts nationwide to bring civics education back to schools. It is based on a similar program in Connecticut, which this year also elected a Kid Governor, Megan Kasperowski. The hope is that other states will follow suit.

Brian Cofrancesco, of the Connecticut Public Affairs Network, helped launch Kid Governor in 2015. Government and civic engagement are often not introduced until high school, he says. “Our goal was to create a meaningful civics experience for younger students.”

The Real Deal

Oregon’s secretary of state, Dennis Richardson, launched the Kid Governor program there. He says it is important for young people to learn early on how to participate in a democracy. “You want to learn how government works, how campaigns function, and how to evaluate the candidates you’re voting for,” he told TFK.

Richardson has been impressed with how seriously Dom takes his role. “The fifth graders in Oregon made a good choice for their first Kid Governor,” he says.

As Oregon’s fifth-grader-in-chief, Dom is making a series of videos to teach students about the three branches of government. And he will talk with lawmakers about the problem of bullying.Dom will also move forward with keeping one big campaign promise. He is starting the Super Kind Writers’ Club to inspire kids to share their stories about the importance of treating others with fairness and sympathy. “Sometimes, kids see problems from a different perspective than adults, and have different solutions,” he told TFK.

Adults are listening. “Dom is the real deal,” says Jo Moore, his teacher at Willamette Valley Christian School. “Even before running for office, he would step forward to stick up for people.”

Is the Kid Governor planning a career in politics? “I haven’t decided on that yet,” Dom says. “I’m going to see where life takes me.”