The start of the 85th Texas Legislative Session is an exciting and busy time for not only elected officials, but also the many advocates and leaders from across the state.
As Fort Bend ISD student leaders visited Austin recently, the halls of the State Capitol were filled with people, rushing from one meeting to another. The priorities and goals set here will affect the lives of millions of Texans for the next two years. This was one of the themes of the day for students in the Board’s Student Leadership program, to see what they have learned in their classrooms and seen on television in real life.
For the first part of the day, the students, Superintendent Charles Dupre and several members of the board – President Kristin Tassin, Vice President Jason Burdine and Trustee KP George – met with several lawmakers representing Fort Bend County in the Texas House. Rep. John Zerwas (District 28) and Rep. Phil Stephenson (District 85) shared how they became interested in politics and how what they do in their professional lives influences their work in government. For Zerwas, a physician, the primary priorities are health care, public safety and education.
“I congratulate you for participating in this leadership course,” he said to the students. “Texas is highly invested in making sure you get a good education. I believe that is how we define what the future of Texas looks like.”
Wroe Jackson, the chief of staff for Sen. Joan Huffman (District 17), met next with the students and shared with them about his work as a legislator staffer. As an attorney, Jackson works mainly on issues of criminal justice, voting rights and elections for Sen. Huffman. He also helps to meet with constituents and visitors to her office. He, along with the other staff members, work to make sure that the senator is prepared for business when bills have to be debated and votes have to be taken.
“She has to find a way to get the information that she needs to be an informed decision maker, and that’s where staff comes in,” he said.
Jackson informed the students they soon could be working with legislators, encouraging them to look into internships when they begin college. He explained these internships can help the students further their growth in leadership and give them an insight into politics, if they choose to go in that direction.
During lunch, students heard from Dupre, Tassin and Rep. Alma Allen (District 131) about what they can do now, as student leaders, to prepare for their adult lives as engaged citizens. Tassin shared what school boards do, and how they function like municipal and state government bodies, setting the priorities and policies for school districts. She and Allen encouraged the students to think about what they can do now, as students in high school, to get involved in the democratic process.
“I want you to think about in what way can you give back because everything that you do is going to matter,” said Tassin. “There are a lot of ways to advocate.”
As leaders from the district and from the state government spoke to the students, they all shared how what they do at various levels of public service affects the lives of the students, their families and all the residents of Fort Bend County. As the day concluded, Dupre made sure to let the students know that they could be speaking to students one day as elected officials and leaders.
“It takes you to make a difference in the world, and you need to be well prepared as voting citizens,” he said. “It’s never too early to begin.”