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State Education Commissioner Richard P. Mills is expected to be on hand Friday when 36 local elementary and high school students participate in the region's first KIDSVENTION, a youth-issues conference on WNEQ-TV, Channel 23.

Thousands of sixth- through 12th-graders whose schools are participating in Kids Voting New York will watch the live conference from 9 to 11 a.m. from their classrooms. The program will be rebroadcast from 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 27.

"The commissioner is coming to Buffalo to talk to the students about the importance of Kids Voting and being involved in the election process," said Anne Leary, executive director of the non-partisan voter-education program, Kids Voting New York, an arm of Kids Voting USA.

Robert M. Bennett, president of the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County and a member of the state Board of Regents, also will attend the live KIDSVENTION, a collaboration between Kids Voting and Western New York Public Broadcasting.

"We had more than 65 teams try out," Mrs. Leary said of runoffs for KIDSVENTION.

The final 12 teams, each with three students, and the issues they will debate are:

Seventh-graders from Amherst Middle School and Olmsted School 56 and ninth-graders from Frontier High School and City Honors School -- Should school uniforms be mandatory?

Eighth-graders from St. Paul's Elementary School in Kenmore and East Aurora Middle School and 10th-graders from Kenmore East and Kenmore West high schools -- Should a high school diploma be required to obtain a driver's license?

Eleventh-graders from the Park School of Buffalo, Snyder, and Williamsville East High School and 12th-graders from Buffalo Traditional and Lancaster High schools -- Should there be a New York State constitutional convention?

Students in Erie and Niagara counties whose schools are participating in Kids Voting will vote on the three issues in their own election, at their parents' polling places, on Election Day.

They also will vote "on everything their parents will be voting on," Mrs. Leary said.

Kids Voting New York, launched in the area last year by The Buffalo News, "has a mission of energizing current and future voters," she noted.

Last year, about 100,000 students from 14 school districts in Erie and Niagara counties participated. About 7,000 adult volunteers assisted them at local polling places on Election Day.

This year, 180,000 elementary and high school students from more than 30 school districts in Erie and Niagara counties are participating, and the project is seeking 15,000 volunteers.

For more information, contact the Kids Voting New York volunteer hot line at 849-4048.

Sponsors of Kids Voting New York, besides The News, are Armor-Box Corp., Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Western New York, Cellular One, Erie I Board of Cooperative Educational Services, Erie County Legislature, M&T Bank, Buffalo Newspress, Bell Atlantic, Tops Friendly Markets and the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation.

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