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Teens at Legislature were there to ‘serve’ a purpose


Citizen Teen Columnist

Recently, I served lunch at the state Capitol. I know some may be thinking, “My goodness, I didn’t know Bryanna Botham, teen columnist extraordinaire, was a waitress in Phoenix.” Well, ladies and gentlemen, I’m not.

I participated in the 2006 Arizona Youth Policy Seminar early this month.

This event was sold to me as an opportunity for students to visit the Arizona Senate, have appointments with legislators and be heard.

We would be able to talk about the changes we want to see in the education system.

I do not speak for the other student attendants, but my experience left something to be desired.

That something was respect. It was missing in nearly every aspect of the program.

The lack of respect was perpetrated not by the senators nor by the Capitol staff overall.

It came from those on “our side,” from the Tucson Unified School District chaperones to the program coordinators.

I don’t know who’s who, and I don’t care. They were adults, meant to empower us students. They failed. Well, I know my place now anyway.

Along with a classmate, I had stepped onto the bus with every hope of making a difference.

I had intentions of demanding that the English language learning bill be settled, more funding be given to the arts, etc.

However, our TUSD chaperones began on the bus to inform us that this was not to be so.

Ever so subtly, they made it clear that there were issues we were supposed to discuss.

The foremost of these was a Joint Technology Education District for Tucson. This would mean schools joining together to equalize technology and career resources for students.

While I am a fan and advocate of such a program, I was shocked and speechless at being told what to talk about.

The rest of the day was uneventful, that is until lunchtime rolled around. Then the student representatives were asked to become “student ambassadors.”

A student ambassador, for those of you who don’t know (and I didn’t), had a simple task. They were to help the legislators to their seats and then serve them their lunch.

My mistake. I thought the students were there as guests. If so, if we were meant to be treated as adults with ideas and opinions, why were we asked to be waiters and waitresses, serving those above us before enjoying our own lunch?

The reason is this: We were not meant to be treated as adults.

Students were there to serve, pun intended, a purpose. We were there to embody an ideal, so teachers and administrators, not students, could request more funding and backing for their pet programs.

We were to unknowingly sing the praises of our own education.

I do take a lesson from the experience. Smile politely and speak only when spoken to, dear student. Do not speak your mind unless it serves another’s purpose.

Teen columnist Bryanna R. Botham (b_botham@hotmail.com) is a senior at Palo Verde High Magnet School. Teen columns are published each Tuesday.

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