by Cindy Wolf
A blended group of Orcas Island Middle School eighth-graders and Salmonberry School seventh-graders took an overnight trip to visit the Washington state capitol in Olympia.
Jordan Kronen, Legislative assistant to Sen. Liz Lovelett, took time out of a busy session schedule to give the group a VIP tour. We saw the office where every bill proposed must be put in a special box called “the hopper” before it gets read on the floor; the governor’s office reception room and the conference room where bills get signed into law; the Senate Chamber; and the chamber used for House leadership conferences.
The highlight of the trip was a visit with each of our three legislators from the 40th Legislative District. The group met in the lofty marble and velvet State Room used to receive the most important guests of the State of Washington.
Lovelett, Rep. Debra Lekanoff and Rep. Alex Ramel made the exceptional effort to pause between committee meetings and talk with the students about the process of how a bill becomes a law; the importance of citizen participation in government; how to apply for the Page program in the coming session; and how they themselves became officeholders. Each legislator also gave a summary of the bills they are personally involved with at the current time. They then fielded questions from the students on everything from how it feels when a bill you have worked very hard on dies in committee to Salmon Recovery plans to what the future looks like for the ferry system. The kids asked good, well-informed questions that demonstrated how well they had prepared for this opportunity. One of the parents present remarked that between listening to our kids and our competent, cooperating, serious-minded LD40 team, she felt a great spark of optimism for the future.
Deep thanks for making this trip possible go to Orcas Island Educational Foundation for the $2,500 grant to the public schools; the San Juan County Democratic Committee for the $250 donation; the San Juan County Republican Party for the $250 donation and for the copies of the U.S. Constitution.
Thank you also to the organizing team: Principal Kyle Freeman; Teacher Phillip Carter; PTSA President Michele Rodriguez; and Salmonberry parent Cindy Wolf. Thank you also to room parent Natasha Meskew for organizing the fundraising bake sale that enabled the students to contribute $800 toward their own expenses. Gratitude to our team of chaperones, Lisa Heisinger; Brian Moss; Ramona Steele; Mandy Troxel; Alexis Terry Bouchard; and Brian (the bus driver) who joined Carter, Freeman and Wolf escorting the kids on their adventure.
Last but certainly not least, a big thank you to our legislators and their staff members for rolling out the red carpet. Your engagement and concern for our students and schools is deeply appreciated.