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All eyes were on Iowa last Monday, February 1, 2016 to find out who will take the lead in the race for the United States President at the Iowa Caucuses. Since Iowa is known to be the first state to choose a front-runner for both parties, students from the Minnesota Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) program, VANTAGE, came down to witness and document the madness.

A collaborative project between the Waukee Aspiring Professional Experience (APEX) Designing Communication Solutions class and Minnetonka VANTAGE’s Digital Journalism class, students worked through the weekend and into Caucus Monday. With documentarian and father of a student from Minnetonka, David Stillman. Mr. Stillman, along with his son Jonah, created Gen Z Guru (GenZGuru.com), and are currently writing a book about Generation Z, the generation after millennial.  Generation Z is not widely known at this point, but includes anyone born between 1995 and 2012. Since Generation Z is not widely talked about in the news, David and Jonah wanted to get political opinions and find answers about lifestyle preferences from people in that age range, which prompted the meetup.

In Waukee High School’s library on Sunday, students organized two focus groups of pre-voting and voting age students for conversations and opinions to be taped for news pieces and the documentary.  The focus groups, led by the Stillmans, discussed questions based on Gen Z students’ personal political views, as it would be many of Generation Z’s first time participating in a caucus and voting.

Waukee student and focus group team organizer, Brett Herren, summarized that “the majority of opinions seemed to be liberal and anti-Donald Trump. They favored Bernie Sanders because of his ideas on free college, climate change, lowering taxes, and pushing for equality. The students didn’t appreciate the lack of professionalism by Trump.” He continued to explain that there were a few students like himself, “who had more conservative views and liked the idea of little government say and a right to our own destiny.”

Overall, the collaborative focus groups filming for the documentary and footage around town was a success.  Several students were able to participate in an interview on MSNBC with Stillman.  Another group was able to sit at the FOX News desk at the Capitol and tour to learn more about the Caucus process.  One APEX student even registered to vote at the Capitol. Another group happened to bump into Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, at a local coffee shop. Herren shared it was a “good project to be apart of because it showcased our age group.”

VANTAGE Director, Richard Hurrelbrink, and APEX Director, Michelle Hill, agreed it was a worthwhile endeavor despite the speed of the two-day schedule.  Hill stated, “This is absolutely the type of experience we seek out for our APEX students.  The collaboration and learning that takes place with our business partners, fellow school partners, and community partners is invaluable for students.  How great is it to see your name as a student in the credits of a documentary or on an MSNBC News clip?”

Both schools appreciated the efforts from both sides to organize such a worthwhile experience. Until next time Minnesota!

By Hannah Quimby, APEX Communications Intern