The Massachusetts State House is a short drive from Watertown but a world away from Perkins, as two Secondary Program students discovered during a recent trip to Beacon Hill.
Sara, 17, and Kym, 19, represented Perkins School for the Blind at Student Government Day, an annual spring event that gives hundreds of high schoolers from around the commonwealth a better understanding of how state government works. Perkins students have participated in the annual event for the last three years.
"It was great for them to see government in action," said teacher Jeff Migliozzi, who advises Perkins' student council members including Sara and Kym. "Seeing the State House and what people do there helped them understand that leadership is about making real change and affecting people's lives."
Students began the day by gathering in a large public hearing room, where state leaders welcomed them and urged them to be active in the political process. Secretary of Education Matt Malone encouraged teens to "run for school committee, run for Senate, run for office." Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin said, "You are our future; these seats will be yours."
The students then shared their opinions about two bills being considered by the legislature: a Senate bill requiring more physical education in schools, and a House bill prohibiting the use of cell phones while driving. Students took turns at the microphone, making arguments for and against the proposed legislation.
After that, the group moved to the historic House of Representatives Chamber to hear from legislators, including the senate majority leader and speaker of the house. Kym and Sara also joined a smaller group in the Senate Reading Room, where they met with representatives from the offices of the governor, attorney general, auditor and treasurer. "Sitting in a room and having (political leaders) talk to you directly, you get a chance to hear them as people and not just speeches," said Migliozzi.
As they headed back to Perkins, the students discussed their favorite part of the day. "I liked talking about the bills," Sara said. Kym, who has a passion for politics, said, "I wanted to learn how to become active. I liked all of it!"