On Thursday, February 23, 2012, members of our Compass class (11th grade) were honored to participate in a visit to the Massachusetts State House!
Our host and facilitator for the day was Representative Paul Brodeur (D- Melrose). The morning started with an informal meet & greet session in the House Members Lounge, where our group learned a bit about various legislative and electoral processes from Representative Brodeur, as well as the Majority Whip Representative Byron Rushing (D- Boston/South End), Representative Tackey Chan (D- Quincy), and Representative Russell Holmes (D- Boston/Jamaica Plain).
All of the participants in the meet & greet had diverse backgrounds and paths to public service. It was inspiring for our teens to meet with some of the people who represent their own communities and hear about how they got to be in the positions they currently hold. As part of telling their stories, each of the representatives offered some advice to our teens- all exhorting them to get as much education as possible; take full advantage of all networks and opportunities, however unlikely they may seem; never be afraid to ask for help and mentorship; and always show up on time and prepared!
Next our teens headed to the Office of the Governor, where they were privileged to be invited into the Council Chamber for a round-table with the Governor’s Chief of Staff, William “Mo” Cowan, and the Senior Director of Government Affairs, Rosemary Powers. In an intimate 45 minute discussion, Mr. Cowan and Ms. Powers shared their personal stories with our teens, and then asked that our teens share their stories in return. Rep. Brodeur and Mr. Cowan also facilitated a discussion on matters of concern to our teens, which focused on transit policy and what access to public transit or lack thereof can mean to a high school student and the impact mobility has on their lives. It was very powerful for the teens to realize that their opinions and concerns carry weight, and to learn more about how they can participate in the public sphere by influencing their legislators.
Our teens wrapped up their time at the State House by taking a tour of the House chambers, and then headed over to ACCESS Boston for the second part of their day- workshops on how they should be preparing for high school as juniors in college. They heard from a member of the ACCESS staff about ways to evaluate schools based on cost and learned about the importance of always having a “financial safety” school. They also had an opportunity to hear from Sidney McClure of College Counseling Partners, a long-time participant in Crossroads’ college access programming, about what they should be doing this spring and over the summer to prepare for applying to schools in the fall.
Thank you to everyone at the Massachusetts State House and ACCESS Boston for being part of such an incredible day for our teens. They went home full of new knowledge about how to advocate for themselves and their communities, and how to prepare themselves for a bright, college-educated future!