Northshore students tell Senator McAuliffe what's on their minds
by Deborah Stone
Students from several local high schools and junior high schools turned out for Senator Rosemary McAuliffe's Youth Forum at Bothell's Ricketts Auditorium on Dec. 11.
This is the third such forum that the Senator had organized over the past few years for youth to come together and give input on the issues that most affect them.
All students in 7th through 12th grades within the school districts of McAuliffe's legislative district were invited to attend the forum.
Approximately 70 students from primarily Northshore schools attended the session to discuss such issues as the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, senior projects, school safety, bullying at school and student participation in the political process.
McAuliffe said she was impressed with the turnout and the comments she heard from the participants. As a result of the concerns she heard from students regarding safety, she plans to sponsor school safety legislation that would require all school districts to have a crisis plan and to practice the plan so students know what to do in a variety of emergencies.
Students at the forum were also concerned about the lack of a central location to hang out at with friends, as well as the early morning school starting times for junior and senior high schools.
McAuliffe discussed how students can use the system to make changes and solve problems.
"When you see a need or a problem, don't take 'no' for an answer," she said. "Find out why not. There is often a reason why something is being done a certain way and you shouldn't stop asking questions until you understand why and then suggest changes to make it better."
She encouraged students to also attend local school board meetings to make their concerns known and respond to proposed plans and programs.
BZ Davis and Rich Baldwin of the Northshore School Board attended the forum, as well as Ken Seuberlich of the Bothell Police Department, to listen to the students' ideas and to answer their questions.
Canyon Park Junior High seventh- grader Kenlyn Munro of Bothell attended the forum with friends on the suggestion of her social studies teacher.
She found it to be interesting and informative and said, "I thought it was cool that someone actually cared enough to spend their own time talking to us about things that we want to have done."
Kenlyn's personal concerns dealt with the early start times, particularly in winter when it's cold and dark in the mornings waiting for the bus. She said, "Some students brought up the idea of flexibility of start times and I thought that sounded like a good idea."
She agreed with the majority of the students who voiced their negative feelings about the Washington Assessment of Student Learning. "Many of the kids think it's very stressful for them and I agree," comments Kenlyn. "I think there's too much stress for both teachers and students and we have too much to deal with already."
Senator McAuliffe plans to continue the tradition of her Youth Forum to make young people aware of the political process and how they can be a part of it. She also feels that it is necessary to hear from young people and allow them to voice their feelings about issues that are central to their lives.
She says, "To be truly effective as legislators, we need to hear from all our constituents, including the young people, and know what they're thinking about."
McAuliffe also used the forum to encourage application to her 1st Legislative District You(th) Count! Council, an advisory panel comprised of area teenagers that will work with the senator throughout the coming 2001 legislative session. The Council learns about the legislative process, how to lobby for or against an issue and how to get directly involved in their state government.
Approximately 16 students serve on the Council. For more information and an application packet, call Senator McAuliffe's office in Olympia at (360) 786-7600.