Student movement hosts state reps
Published 12:00 am, Friday, April 21, 2017
FAIRFIELD — From national threats to the environment to how Connecticut administers public education, students quizzed their state representatives on policy and their positions Tuesday morning.
The halls bustling, Fairfield Ludlowe High School Advanced Placement U.S. government and politics students — armed with inquiries crowd-sourced on social media — filed through the library for the back-and-forth on local politics. The students launched GIVE Campaign, a movement to urge classmates to get politically and civically engaged.
Behind state Reps. Cristin McCarthy Vahey, D-133, Brenda Kupchick, R-132, and Laura Devlin, R-134, and state Sen. Tony Hwang, R-28, flashed photos of students holding up responses to a pledge to “Get Informed, Vote and Engage” for causes such as women’s rights, progress, the environment, their faith, a good- paying job when they graduate and “a country I can be proud of.”
“If you want to make change, you’ve really got to get in the game,” Kupchick said, “and sometimes you’ve got to run for office.”
Devlin said Connecticut needs the teens to get involved at the state level, now more than ever, and Vahey urged community engagement.
“It may sound really corny, but that’s how we do government,” Vahey said.
Among varied questions, several focused on education. One student asked about transgender students’ rights, which Kupchick responded to by saying “We’re all people” and she supports LGBTQ rights. When another asked about whether transgender rights should be left to the states or federal government, Devlin said she was unsure, but that discrimination against transgender people upset her.
“You should be able to live your life that way,” she said.
Vahey, too, was unsure, but said either way, everyone needs to better “embrace and accept” people different than themselves.
As for education policy itself, Hwang and Vahey expressed clashing views on Common Core State Standards. Hwang said they drive education “from the top down” and dictate an overly formulaic approach to teaching, while Vahey encouraged students to talk to their administrators for their views as experts.
Education wasn’t the only topic to come up in the Ludlowe library.
Asked about federal threats to the environment, Hwang called Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt “the wrong choice” and added, “I don’t always agree with the administration.”
It was the second town hall-style event the student movement has hosted, following Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly’s February visit. Tuesday’s panel was cozier, tucked in Ludlowe’s library lecture hall and specifically for the seniors and one junior in AP government. Other high schools, including Warde, bused in students for Murphy’s visit to a packed auditorium.
“I thought that this was the most incredible experience the (government) kids have had so far,” senior Mia Tommins said after the panel. “It was so fulfilling to hear.”
She felt the event was a great opportunity for the students and more “eye- opening” than the previous town hall. On the state level, she had no idea certain topics — like instituting tolls — were up for debate until the panel.
Senior Emma Kagel struck a similar tone, pointing out students generally hear more about news at the federal government than state level.
“It was very informative about the state government specifically,” she said.