The Haystack

GT Students Journey to State Capitol to Make Their Voices Heard

The+Colorado+State+Capitol+building.
The Colorado State Capitol building.

The Colorado State Capitol building.

courtesy of colorado.gov

courtesy of colorado.gov

The Colorado State Capitol building.

Rachel Vigil, Editor-in-Chief

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In an effort to increase civic engagement and awareness, Wheat Ridge’s Gifted and Talented program, commonly known as GT, is journeying to the Colorado State Capitol to make their voices heard.

Students who are interested will research a piece of pending legislation and try to make it to committee hearings on that legislation in order to argue for or against the bill.
Though in previous years they have shadowed representatives in order to see the inner workings of government, they decided to switch it up this year.

Many of the students last year were unable to secure representatives to shadow. “Last year felt empty to me,” said GT Teacher Lisa Lee when asked why they decided to change the plan. “This is a more dynamic way to get them really involved in government.”

Lee began this project with lessons about school funding and what forces affect it. They discussed the TABOR amendment and then invited a pro-TABOR speaker to provide a balanced view of both sides of the issue.

According to Lee, “The speaker did not come in with positive expectations.” However, as he left he told Lee that her students challenged him as much as college students and was pleased with the healthy discussion they had.

The class then moved on to researching pending legislation. Many were surprised by what legislation was being proposed and debated. “It’s been beautiful to watch them go on the website,” said Lee. One student in particular had been opposed to the lessons surrounding social justice but got enthusiastic about the project once he saw legislation concerning internet and broadband. Lee was pleased that this project could appeal to all types of students in the class.

Students have chosen topics ranging from mental health for teens, LGBTQ rights, minimum wage, healthcare, education, gun control, funding of arts programs, higher education, and much more. Students stand on both sides of many of these issues and hope to be able to argue their sides at the capitol. No date has been set for the students to go down to the legislature, but Lee hopes some of her connections to legislators would be able to get her students an audience with legislators or even into committee hearings.

Lee feels that many, “teenagers have a sense of social justice, but not the ability to act on it…I’m really bothered by suddenly ‘giving’ 18-year-olds a voice. Her overarching goal is to show students that, “by the end of the day, whether or not someone votes your way, you still have a voice.” Soon, some of those young voices will be heard trying to change the government, and the state’s future.

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