Indy eighth grader wins trip to presidential debate with essay to Trump

Jade Thomas reads her essay that won a nationwide contest.
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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - An Indianapolis eighth grader will be an eyewitness to the third and final presidential debate next week.

Jade Thomas won a nationwide contest that will put her in the room with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

The young leaders developing in classrooms at St. Richard's Episcopal School can't vote in the election, but they do have a voice.

And Jade's words will carry directly to the candidates for president.

"Thirteen- to sixteen-year-olds, we aren't all scrolling through Instagram or taking Snapchat stories. We actually are looking at the news and we're scared number one and we're also really disgusted about what these adults are talking about and how they're ignoring the policies and the issues that'll affect my generation and the younger generations to come," Thomas said.

Thomas is one of two students nationwide chosen to attend the third and final presidential debate. She'll be live-tweeting and blogging as a student reporter in Las Vegas.

She won the PBS Education's 50 for 50 essay contest by writing a letter in history class to Donald Trump.

St. Richard's U.S. History Teacher, Andrea Neal, had all of her students write letters for the contest, as part of learning about the constitution.

"And there you go, voila, she got chosen from hundreds and hundreds of entries," Neal said. "For an eighth grader to have the sort of maturity that she reflected in her letter is really quite unusual. We've been talking so much about gender-related issues and I think that's maybe one of the reasons that she won because that issue really has resonated around the country."

Thomas' letter to Donald Trump focused on women and the wage gap and, in it, she shared personal experiences as the daughter of a single mom. Now she'll get to hear the candidates share their views in person, in quite an unusual election cycle.

Sunday's town hall debate had her frustrated with both Trump and Clinton. She says she expects the final debate to be "nasty."

"They can't change in a week-and-a-half. I'm thinking that my classmates and I could debate a lot more civilly than they ever could," Thomas said. "This election seems like a joke or a farce and our generation, my generation is left wondering where we would be in say five, 10 years if this election is turned into a joke?"

They're words from a young Hoosier to the future leader in Washington, who will go from learning about history to experiencing it firsthand. Her history teacher hopes Thomas takes it all in.

"I'm just so proud of her. She needs to just go have a ball. Tweet as much as she can, to try and meet the candidates while they're there. Get your picture taken with them. You're never going to forget this," Neal said.

Thomas and her mom leave for Las Vegas next Tuesday. The final presidential debate is next Wednesday night.

To follow Jade's observations or ask her questions about the experience, follow the hashtag #PBSEdu during the debate.