Katie Woltner, the Essex County student delegate picked to go to Albany this spring, shakes hands with the Plattsburgh League of Women Voters president Sally Sears-Mack as (from left) Betty Little, Janet Duprey and Dan Stec look on.
Two student delegates from the North Country were selected to attend the Students Inside Albany Conference from April 14-17.
The delegates, one from Clinton County and one from Essex County, will be Nate Casey of AuSable Valley Central School and Katie Woltner of Keene Central School.
Their alternates are Tegan Belrose of Beekmantown Central School and Corinne White of Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School.
The Plattsburgh League of Womens Voters sponsors one student for the all-expenses-paid conference and the Plattsburgh Sunrise Rotary and the North East Area Labor Council will provide the funding to sponsor the other student.
Katie Woltner’s history teacher picked her for the conference, and she won the thing!
Woltner is on her school’s green team and is in the process of helping to start a new environmental activist group called Unity Earth.
“A lot of what we’re doing right now is raising awareness on hydro fracking,” Woltner said. “We really don’t want to see it in New York State because we don’t think it’s a good practice.”
Her involvement with the group has made her more interested in how government works, and she said the Students Inside Albany Conference will help give her a window into that process.
The winners name’s were drawn from a basket at the end of the third-annual “Meet Your Legislators” event, sponsored by the Plattsburgh League of Women’s Voters and held at Peru High School on Saturday, Jan. 26.
Thirty three student delegates representing 15 North Country high schools were picked to attend the event, although some delegates were absent.
Participants gathered in the auditorium at the high school, which felt like a press conference as the students took turns asking New York State legislators questions.
Some of the questions were contentious, touching on topics like Governor Cuomo’s new gun control law, safety in schools and same sex marriage, while others explored issues, like whether or not increasing the power of the federal government is beneficial to the United States.
Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru), Assemblyman Dan Stec (R-Queensbury) and Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) took the podium one at a time to respond to the student delegates.
Each legislator opened by explaining how he or she got to their position.
For one of them, the event was a homecoming.
Duprey, a graduate of Peru High School, has been a politician for 38 years, and has been involved in every Meet Your Legislators program since it began.
“If you have a dream, you work at it and you can accomplish it, no matter what small town you come from and no matter who you are,” Duprey said.
Duprey has been a member of the Plattsburgh League of Women’s Voters since the 1970s, and applauded them for their research and non-partisan approach.
Lilly Sullivan, a junior at Peru High School and one of the event’s hosts, said Duprey was the guest she wanted to see most due to her history of not voting on every issue according to Republican party lines.
It is something Duprey has been applauded–and criticized–for.
“This event is a good experience to learn more about how government functions,” Sullivan said. “I think voting strictly according to party lines keeps positive change from happening.”
Rachael Wnuk, a junior at Beekmantown High School, heard about the event through her guidance counselor, who recommended it based on Wnuk’s interest in obtaining a Reserve Officer Training Corp through the Navy.
Her goal after high school is to start with nursing and work her way up to becoming a trauma surgeon.
“You’re going to save that person’s life, and that’s what I want to do,” Wnuk said. “It’s intimidating, but I work good under pressure. That’s my thing.”
Wnuk said she most looked forward to meeting Senator Betty Little, and was also inspired by Duprey’s local roots.
“It’s like the American value, where you can start so little and build yourself up,” Wnuk said.