Johnston High School receives Catt award for voter registration of students

IMG 9378JOHNSTON, Ia. (Jan. 31, 2024) — In an auditorium packed with Johnston High School seniors who will soon be first-time voters, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate today presented JHS with the Carrie Chapman Catt Award.

The award, named after the Iowan who was a national leader in the women’s suffrage movement, recognizes Johnston High School for securing voter registration pledge cards from more than 90 percent of the JHS senior class of about 600. 

The effort was led by JHS government teachers Patrick Hennes and Thomas Griffin, who teach about democracy and encouraged students to register to vote last November in their government and economics classes. This is the first time  Johnston has received the award

IMG 9363“Democracy is important to us,” Hennes said. “I never served in the military so I view teaching, especially American Government, as my way of serving our nation. It’s about giving back. We want students to be active participants. We’re proud to have the opportunity to vote.”

Johnston is the largest high school in the state to receive the Carrie Chapman Catt Award. A total of 21 Iowa schools have so far met the criteria to receive the award this year, among 120 signed up to participate. The deadline is March 22.

“We have incredible social studies teachers,” said JHS senior Abigail Wharton. “In years past, we didn’t quite make it in reaching this goal. But it’s our duty as Americans to vote.IMG 9381 Teachers are the best way to connect with students to talk about this. They make a big difference.”

This is the fifth year for the annual voter registration drive. Pate told JHS students that youth 18 to 25 have traditionally had low voter turnout, but pointed out that items they purchase — such as shoes, clothes, prepared foods and gas — are taxed and their vote is a form of representation in the government that is taxing them.

“Your voice is important,” Pate said.

State law allows 17-year-olds to register to vote in Iowa. They can also participate in June primary elections if they will be 18 in time for the November general election. Many JHS seniors will get their first opportunity to vote  in the Nov. 5, 2024 presidential election.

See more photos of the presentation on the JCSD Facebook page.

The presentation of the Carrie Chapman Catt award at JHS was featured in the Scholastic Spotlight by WHO-TV, during the 6 a.m. hour on Monday, Feb. 5. Watch the feature below, which is also posted at