SUNNYSIDE — Rep. Jeremie Dufault of the 15th Legislative District made a visit to Daren Fickel’s social studies classroom and taught an interactive 90-minute period of Washington state government at Harrison Middle School on Monday, May 6.
This is Fickel’s first year teaching in Sunnyside, and after receiving his National Board Certification, he was encouraged to reach out to legislators and invite them into the classroom.
“I view school as a way to bridge the gap from community to student lives,” Fickel expressed. “This is an excellent way to bridge that gap. It’s been a really cool experience.”
Prior to the start of class, Dufault introduced himself to students. After the elected official was welcomed by a round of applause, he informed them about the last 72 hours of the legislative session, which ended the week before, and how it ended with the passing of a bunch of bills that affected all of them and their families.
“I believe so much in the kids of our valley and think that they’re our future. If we can get them interested in public service, we can get them interested in what it takes to be a contributing member to our community on all levels,” Dufault stated.
Over the past few years, the English and Social Studies teacher has been bringing in special guests to engage students.
“Anytime you bring in a different voice, they pay attention. I try to mix it up. They get tired of hearing me talk all the time,” Fickel explained. “And, this is an expert. They know that he knows what he’s talking about, and they don’t have to question of ‘Where did you learn that or is that really true?’”
During the representative’s question and answer session with inquisitive students, Gilbert Rojas was the first to raise his hand and asked, “What’s the most important law?”
Dufault replied, “The most important law in my opinion is the Constitution.”
As the class began to engage in the civics discussion, Dufault transformed room No. 124 into a campus version of the State Capitol, where students took on the roles of Senators and House of Representatives in creating a political environment to develop and pass a bill.
Because his birthday was next week, Dufault selected Ethan Avalos as Governor and Gilbert Rojas volunteered to aid his constituent with a speech and was selected Lieutenant Governor.
Due to her interest in becoming a state representative, Gabby Gomez was called upon to serve as Attorney General.
During their working classroom session, lawmakers crafted a bill centered on gang prevention. There was in depth debate on the floor whether or not school safety should be made a priority.
At the end of the collaborative session, Gov. Avalos agreed to add more security and police officers to schools to secure the passage of his gang prevention legislation.
He did, however, veto two school safety bills.
Overall, student legislators came to an agreement that gang prevention would limit school issues.
“Elected officials need to be accessible and accountable for the people at all times, in my view,” Dufault said.
“Coming out to just talking to people where they’re comfortable, that’s an important message to send to people,” he expressed. “You have to get out and understand what’s important in the community and what’s important to Sunnyside.”