Kathryn Ward ’18 and Lainey Turner ’19 participated in the Student Government Day program held at the Massachusetts State House last Friday. On the train ride there both students exclaimed, “Thank you for bringing us, Ms. Zink. We get so many great opportunities at Penguin Hall. This never would have happened for me at my old school.”
The program enables students from across the Commonwealth to serve in the roles of elected or appointed officials, and to participate in the legislative process. Students have the opportunity to learn first-hand, about state government and are able to voice their positions on important issues during simulated committee hearings and legislative sessions of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Student Government Day program also provides students with the opportunity to exchange views with their peers on statewide issues.
This year, students debated two pieces of legislation that are currently under review by the Legislature. One bill would raise the age of sale for tobacco products from 18 to 21, align e-cigarettes with the Commonwealth’s smoke-free workplace law, and prohibit the sale of tobacco in healthcare facilities such as pharmacies. The second piece of legislation would direct the Massachusetts Legislature to call on the United States Congress to abolish the Electoral College via Constitutional amendment thereby allowing for the direct election of the President and Vice President by popular vote.
As part of Student Government Day, the students are assigned roles in either the legislative, executive or judicial branch to familiarize themselves with the various functions associated with the offices. Both Kathryn and Lainy were assigned the role of State Representative. The students were also addressed by elected and appointed officials including Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, Senate President Harriette Chandler, Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, the Commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Jeffrey Riley, and Associate Justice William Meade of the Court of Appeals.
Student Government Day was established by statute in 1947 to encourage youth to “observe the processes of government.” Each year, high schools across the Commonwealth are invited to send two students in either their junior or senior year to participate. This event is sponsored by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in collaboration with numerous partners including the Legislature and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute.