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Local high school student to sit in with AK Legislature

 

Kyle Clayton / Petersburg Pilot

Rep. Jonathan Kriess-Tomkins described Helen Martin as a "beacon of enthusiastic energy."

Petersburg High School sophomore Helen Martin, 15, will take a trip to the state capitol in early March and spend four days sitting in on the legislative session.

Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins selected Martin to participate in his Legislative Externship Program after her world history teacher talked to her class about the program. Martin, who is the vice president of her sophomore class, talked it over with her mom and they both thought it would be a good idea.

"I'm pretty excited to sit in and take notes and come back to the community and using what I learned there for my student government and school board," Martin said.

Kreiss-Tomkins came up with the idea last year as part of an effort to engage young people in local and state politics.

"It will be four days in Juneau in our office; total immersion, tracking legislation, sitting in on committee hearings, staffing the house floor and we're really excited and Helen is a beacon of enthusiastic energy," Kreiss-Tomkins said. "We can't wait to have her here."

Martin said she's excited to go to the capital especially as the legislature grinds through issues related to the state's $4 billion budget deficit.

"I think the budget talks will really interest me," Martin said. "It's kind of concerning especially since both of my parents' jobs depend on how much money our state has. My mom's a kindergarten teacher and my dad's a commercial fisherman so its really applicable to the situation I'm in now."

Although she doesn't aspire to a career in politics, Martin likes to stay informed on what's happening around town, and around the world.

"I follow CNN and BBC, both websites and the news hour, and I listen to the radio and read the newspaper," Martin said. "I really like to stay up on the different political opinions and what's going on because I know it's eventually going to affect me even if it doesn't right now."

"I'm pretty excited to sit in and take notes and come back to the community using what I learned there for my student government and school board," Martin said.

Three other students from around the district, including Sitka, Mount Edgecumbe and Hoonah, will accompany Kreiss-Tomkins during the four-day event.

"I want our office to provide as much opportunity as possible and be a force for good experiences and good ideas and this seems like a great way to connect enthusiastic, curious, interested high schoolers who want meaningful engagement and experience with the Alaska legislature, government and politics," Kriess-Tomkins said.

 

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