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Six schools, 22 student journalists and 201 state legislators:
Lobby Day in Minnesota

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by Lori Keekley, MJE
I had no idea how inspired I would be by 22 students from six different schools who joined me to lobby for the New Voices legislation March 19.

During the one day at the capitol, the students made signs, learned and practiced how to talk to legislators, lined the senate and house while legislators entered and talked to the press, but something else happened there too.

The students, some of whom have been censored by administrators, found their voice. They learned what it’s like to be civically engaged and to work to further the bill’s goal of clarification of the roles of student journalists and administrators.

However, my favorite part of lobby day wasn’t seeing the students interviewed by local media or the reports of how conversations with legislators went. Instead, my favorite moment happened right after the students lined the hallway for the representatives going into session.

After the legislators entered, a group of elementary students passed and they started asking the students present for lobby day questions. The questions ranged from “Wow, did you make that sign” to “You’re here to talk to them?”

The idea of these young student journalists inspiring the next group of active citizens makes me know that even if the student free expression bill doesn’t get heard this year, we are raising more children who will understand the importance of their voice — and maybe one of those elementary students will help facilitate even greater change.

After the lobby day finished, one of these students took over contacting more of the state senators as her community service campaign. Others have continued to ask what they can do if the bill doesn’t get heard this year, and two volunteered to lead the student group the following year.

While some may be surprised by the students taking on these ownership roles, I am not. I see this daily during my journalism class. Student leaders are in charge and making decisions while working to empower all voices — especially those marginalized.

As a teacher, I will continue to work to empower all of their voices and show the value of civic engagement. And maybe this still will be the year for Minnesota

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