Attorney General Bob Ferguson visited eighth-grade students at Bellevue’s Open Window School (OWS) to talk about their work on HB 1074 (raising tobacco age) and discussed their interest in the executive and legislative branches of the state government.
Students offered their voices and opinions on HB 1074, which increased the smoking and vaping age from 18 to 21, a bill that was subsequently passed on March 29. Through the TVW Capitol Classroom project, representing lobbyist Al Ralston read eighth-grade students’ statement at the Senate ways and means hearing on Friday, March 15. The students were then invited by Gov. Jay Inslee to attend the signing of the bill on April 5.
TVW’s hands-on civics education program Capitol Classroom teaches students how to participate directly in the state legislative process by connecting them with professionals in Olympia via TVW video conferences. In Capitol Classroom, students and teachers work with lobbyist volunteers to choose legislation to support, oppose or amend. Then, through TVW video conferences, students communicate with their lobbyists during the session and track the legislation. The goal of Capitol Classroom is to provide a rich and immersive learning experience by investing students in the state legislative process.
Eighth-grade students Elsie Bencke and Swadesh Sistla said they enjoyed being a part of Capitol Classroom.
“It was great to realize that people our age can make a change,” Bencke said. “It was really inspiring to hear our words being spoken [at the Senate ways and means hearing.]”
Sistla mirrored Bencke’s sentiment saying, “This experience has taught me that I can have an impact and that if I work hard enough I can effect change.”
Corey Paulson, OWS Capitol Classroom teacher, said she’s proud of her students in their work to support the bill.
“This is the second year the class has followed this bill. I was glad when this class chose to pursue this bill this year,” she said. “They’re really passionate about what’s going on and how it’s going to affect them.”
The students said they felt important with Attorney General Bob Ferguson visiting them.
“It was great to hear him explain and give advice,” Sistla said. “The visit was a nice period to our class and wrap up the year.”
“It’s awesome to see someone who represents us…by him coming to talk with us it made him seem more like an everyday person,” Bencke said.
“It was really special for him to come and talk to the students,” Paulson said. “This was probably a once in a lifetime opportunity for them. He helped answer a lot of questions about the bill and government in general. I think it helped the students realize he’s a regular person.”