Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 17, 2013

Student leaders get legislative experience

Carrie Stambaugh
The Independent

FRANKFORT — Student leaders from Boyd and Greenup County got an upclose view of their state legislators in action last week.

More than 20 members of the Ashland Alliance Youth Leadership program traveled to the state Capitol in Frankfort on Tuesday to take in a legislative session.

“We’ve been doing this for 20 plus years now,” said Ann Perkins, executive director of Safe Harbor and a Youth Leadership leader. “We want them to know about government and how it runs. Since these are our future leaders for our community, we are trying to get them up to speed and educated.”

The program is comprised of around 40 students from seven high schools in Boyd and Greenup counties. Students are juniors and meet once monthly for seven months. Many come back the next year to serve as senior representatives, helping to guide the new crop of leaders forward. Only half were able to make the Frankfort trip.

 After touring the Governor’s Mansion, the students attended morning legislative committee hearings. They met with Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, and with Rep. Kevin Sinnette, D-Ashland, before taking in a session of the Kentucky House of Representatives from the gallery.  At the end, they were granted an opportunity to come on to the House Floor, where they had their picture taken with Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook.

After attending the afternoon House session, Emmalynn Edmonds, a senior at Paul G. Blazer High School, said she found this year’s trip even more exciting than her previous trip.

“It was a lot more interesting this year,” she said. “I noted through the building that there was a lot of KEA (Kentucky Education Act) discussion, which is fun for me because I’m planning on being a teacher. It’s was very interesting to observe.”

Sydney Shoemaker, of Greenup, also enjoyed taking in the legislative process. “I love sitting in and listening to the sessions. Other places I’ve gotten to pretend I was a part of it. It’s cool to see it when you aren’t pretending to be part of that system, when you are just watching and listening.”

Bo Wampler, a junior at Greenup High School, was on his first trip to the Capitol and was most impressed with it’s size “and how many people are here, and how crazy it is,” Wampler said.

“It’s pretty hectic around here, that’s my overview,” agreed Josh Barney, also of Greenup. He noted the artwork in the halls of the building was “pretty good.”

Following Tuesday’s House session, Adkins spent some time with the students in his office educating them on his role in the process.

The former college basketball player and high school coach compared his job to being a point guard. “It’s my responsibility to be the coach on the floor. It is my responsibility to control the tempo of the game. It’s my responsibility to be in full communication with the membership of the house with legislation they are interested in, helping them with the process, what may be in committee, where they need a little push or direction,” he explained.  

The former educator praised the program for giving students a first-hand view of democracy in action. “When I was elected, on my 26th birthday, I had only been here twice in my life,” said Adkins, who is now serving his 26th year in the House.  

“It is so important for our youth to be here and see how the process of our government works. It is so important to have an understanding that this is an open process. It is a process they can be a part of and participate in with legislation coming up. ... To understand that this process is their process. It is not mine. I’m just a part of it,” he said, adding, “It’s important for them to understand that our government works best when they understand and are involved in it.”

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at cstambaugh@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.