PJ Saumell voted for the first time Tuesday.
Before then, though, the 18-year-old senior at Dulaney High School, in Timonium, took a step that he hopes will help him and his classmates become more informed when they vote in the next election — he helped to coordinate a visit of C-SPAN's Campaign 2016 Bus to the school.
The bus is a mobile classroom and television studio that travels the country visiting high schools, universities and public events promoting the use of its online archive, which includes more than 200,000 hours of news and events footage as a way to get information straight from the source, without editing. The network — officially the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network — is known for its broadcasts of footage from the floors of the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate and other policy-related bodies and events.
The bus, which makes its visits as a free public service, stopped at Dulaney for two hours Thursday morning, thanks in part to Saumell, who helped coordinate the event through his role as president of the school's chapter of the National Social Studies Honor Society.
To become informed voters, students will need to know how to use primary sources, such as footage of speeches, in college, Saumell said. He also hoped that the visit would help his fellow students better understand aspects of the recent election, such as the workings of the electoral college.
"It's important to understand that not everything you read on the Internet is going to be true," Saumell said. "You have to do real research to get real answers."
The visit occurred two days after the nation elected Republican Donald Trump its 45th president. Voting is an important right, Saumell said, and not one that should be wasted.
"Being informed and making educated decisions is the best thing we can do to properly serve the country and protect that right," he said.
Even with the election over, it's important for people to understand how and why the election results occurred as they did, Saumell said, adding that people who are angry with the results can use the knowledge to press for change. Reaction to the election results in the school has been mixed, Saumell said.
"But from the teachers, which I think is the most important thing, there's been a message of we need to come together at a time like this, even though people are on both sides of this; what's very important is that we stick together because we're a country," he said. "We're not going to fall apart because of this."
On the bus, C-SPAN representatives taught roughly 100 students, in groups of 15 at a time, how to navigate the network website's online archive. Students had access to three touch-screen computers, three laptops and other technological resources to help them learn how to watch video from the archive. The representatives and students also discussed other sources of information, such as social media.
For C-SPAN, the most important value is neutrality, said C-SPAN marketing and community relations representative Doug Hemmig.
"Our philosophy is to be a fly on the wall, step back, deliver the message, whatever that may be," Hemmig said. "It's not our job to pick and choose and filter out what material they hear about their government. It's our job to show the government in action."
For example, on C-SPAN's website Thursday afternoon students could have seen uncut copies of Trump's victory speech, as well as Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's concession speech. And C-SPAN's archive isn't limited to recent events — the first televised presidential debate, held between former presidents Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy, is available in the archive.
The bus also promotes C-SPAN as a resource for teachers, Hemmig said.
The bus has visited Baltimore County Public Schools before, said Thomas Maranville, chair of Dulaney's social studies department. It visited Kenwood High School in 2012 and provided a valuable lesson in primary sources, Maranville said. So when C-SPAN contacted the school system two weeks ago to say the bus would be in the northern Baltimore area, Maranville jumped at the opportunity to invite C-SPAN to Dulaney.
Though its current name is the Campaign 2016 Bus, the program has operated nearly year-round for more then two decades, Hemmig said. After the presidential inauguration in January, the bus will be simply called the C-SPAN bus again.
The bus usually makes two stops a day, Hemmig added. On Thursday, it also visited Loch Raven High School in the afternoon and was headed Friday to Frederick Douglass High School, in Baltimore.
C-SPAN is funded by a fee paid by cable networks that carry the programming, Hemmig said. The bus and gear inside are valued at $1.2 million, and two miles of cable run beneath the its floor, Hemmig said, powering and connecting its technology. The bus can also function as a mobile studio for C-SPAN, though it's primary function is education.
The first class at Dulaney to visit the bus on Thursday was a group of 9th-graders in the school's gifted and talented program. Hemmig showed the students how to use C-SPAN's archive and then allowed them to use the computers and touch screens to practice searching the catalog of videos.
Freshmen Max Fisher, of Lutherville, and Brian Hoskins, of Baldwin, both 14, said they think they'll use C-SPAN as a source of information for research papers and other projects. It will also help them prepare for the next election, when they'll be old enough to vote, they said.
It will also help with "knowing what Trump will do," now that he is in office, Fisher added.
Pete Sugatt, of Hydes, also visited the bus Thursday. Sugatt taught history and social studies in county public schools for 28 years, including two at Dulaney, before retiring in 1999. In his retirement, Sugatt became a relief driver for the C-SPAN bus, spending six to eight weeks a year on the road. He's driven the bus for eight years, work that's taken him across the country, he said.
"I'll be out in Wyoming or something, Bose speakers up full blast, rocking and rolling across the plains, you know," Sugatt said.
He wasn't driving Nov. 10; he just wanted to visit the bus at his former school. The goal of the bus, providing valuable unedited information, is admirable, he said.
"In our current society it seems as though people cannot agree on anything," he said. "Republicans and Democrats can't agree on whether the sun is shining. Across the country, a lot of people trust C-SPAN because it's so neutral."