Students were inspired and educated about their government as Albany politics came to Peru.
Sen. Betty Little and Assemblywomen Janet Duprey and Theresa Sayward spoke to area students, parents, and teachers at Peru High School for the second annual Meet Your State Legislator event.
MYSL, hosted by the Plattsburgh Chapter of the League of Women Voters, is an educational session designed to give students from Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties a deeper understanding of how the New York State Legislature works.
Betty Ann King co-chair of the MYSL and board member of the LWV said the league saw the event as an opportunity for a small piece of Albany to be brought to area students.
“We talked to students and found it shocking that they didn’t know the name of the legislators representing them and they also didn’t know some of them were women,” King said. “By bringing Albany to the students the students will feel there is less of a gap between them and their government.”
Little, Duprey and Sayward shared with the attendees what drove them to enter NYS politics. They discussed what issues they are most passionate about and later took questions from students.
When student Charles Foyer of Beekmantown asked Little how residents can help and become more involved in their government, Little encouraged him and others to make themselves heard by their government.
“I think if the government is really representing you then you are coming to the meetings and participating,” Little said.
Some of the female student delegates said they were interested in learning from the senator and assemblywomen strategies to voice their opinion and build a stronger presence.
“I’m a pretty strong person with pretty strong opinions,” Carly Moss of Beekmantown High School, said. “I hope I can draw some inspiration from these women to be more confident in speaking out.”
Little said her best advice to young women is to be involved and know whats going on in their community and government.
”I think women, more than men, need to know the issues and be confident in their opinions,” Little said after the assembly. “There are many more opportunities for women than there was when I was younger and they should pursue them.”
Assemblywoman Duprey said she was inspired to get involved in local politics as a small business owner. She decided to address her concerns over high taxes by taking her “money where my mouth is, go to work and see what I could do to help.”
When Duprey was sworn into her first elected position as county legislator in 1975 she was both the youngest person elected to the position and the first woman elected. She said the transition was met with resistance from male colleagues.
“The night I walked in to be sworn in as a member of the county legislator one of my colleagues walked up to me and said, ‘You don’t belong here, we don’t want you here, we will not work with you and in two years we’ll get rid of you,” Duprey said. “I said to him when you leave I’ll remind you of this conversation because I’ll still be here.”
Assemblywoman Sayward said when she first took an interest in politics in Essex, she walked into a meeting and the men told her the women were in the kitchen. She surprised them by wanting to participate in the meeting. Later to the surprise of Sayward and the male members of the board the women joined her in the meetings.
“I realized the importance of being involved,” Sayward said. “Life is politics, and it just depends on how involved you want to be."
Sayward said she realized early on the importance of bridging many different opinions to serve the community.
“Good government comes from many groups coming together,” Sayward said. “We need men and we need women.
The legislators talked to students about the steps in becoming a legislator, job descriptions, background, experience, committees and some of the bills that meant the most to them.
After the legislators spoke to the students ,LWV member Inge Sapp spoke about the importance of living in a free democracy by sharing her experience living as a Nazi Youth and later communist occupied West Germany. Sapp said growing up under both governments she was brainwashed twice and the experience of living under a free democracy shouldn’t be taken for granted.
“You must vote and you must exercise your rights in a free democracy,” Sapp said.
Two students from each area school were chosen as delegates to represent their school at the forum along with several alternates. Students came from Au Sable Valley, Beekmantown, Chazy, Crown Point, Keene, Moriah, North Eastern Clinton, Northern Adirondack, Peru, Plattsburgh, Saranac, Seton Catholic, Ticonderoga, Westport, and Willsboro High Schools.
Two students, Carly Moss from Beekmantown and Mike Denis of Peru were chosen by lottery to represent the North Country at Students Inside Albany in April. It will be an all-expense paid trip where the students will shadow one of the district's legislators for a day and watch the legislature at work for four days.
“I’m very excited to see into the world of politics in Albany and bring it back to everyone here,” Moss said.