Washington State Senator Joe Nguyen, who represents Vashon Island as part of the 34th District, visited 6th to 8th grade Civic students and their families at FamilyLink, answering student questions and providing an opportunity to demonstrate how representatives work with their constituents.
“We’ve seen photos of him and read about some of his bills,” said sixth-grader Beaux Johns. “I was excited to see him in person. I think it is important for everyone to be able to meet their senator and ask them questions.”
Senator Nguyen’s visit comes as civics students have learned about the structures of how the state government works and how bills become laws. Students recently took a field trip to the state capitol and sat in on a legislative session in which they heard a debate over arts education funding in public schools.
“One of my goals in civics is to encourage engaged citizenship,” said teacher Tracy Chait. “Seeing a relevant debate and having Senator Nguyen visit in person helps bring the process closer and makes it easier to access. Getting to ask him questions from their unique perspectives is empowering in itself.”
The students gathered together to come up with questions to submit to Senator Nguyen before his arrival, and they did not craft a variety of softball questions. The students inquired about the challenges of collaborations required to pass bills, how Senator Nguyen stays true to his beliefs while keeping an open mind, if he ever regretted running for office, why he ran for public office in the first place and what ways students can get involved in the political process.
Senator Nguyen thanked the students for the difficult questions and encouraged them to be present, show up, engage with their legislators, and maintain action on issues they are passionate about.
“There is a lot of value you as students can add to the legislative process, and it is important to be involved because you will have to deal with all of the ramifications of the decisions being made now,” Senator Nguyen told the students. “I think you will also be surprised at the reception you will receive.”
Chait has placed an emphasis on local politics for her class. Students have tracked some of the bills Senator Nguyen has worked on by accessing the library of video footage to see committee hearings and floor debates, including testimonials from experts, citizens, and students.
“When they’ve watched footage of students testifying about the potential impact of a bill, it shows that their voices matter and this is how the process works,” said Chait. “It is a reflection of themselves advocating for their interests and their communities.”