Schreiber student thrives at Students Inside Albany

Students+from+numerous+schools+gather+at+Students+Inside+Albany%2C+which+is+a+four-day+training+program.

Adi Levin

Students from numerous schools gather at Students Inside Albany, which is a four-day training program.

Emily Ma, Copy Editor

Junior Adi Levin attended Students Inside Albany, a four-day training program sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

This program, which lasts from May 21 to 24, is designed to engage high school students in the process by which public policy can be shaped and changed.

Social science research teacher Dr. David O’Connor randomly selected two students to apply for Students Inside Albany.  Juniors Adi Levin and Matthew Gawley were chosen, and they interviewed with Ms. Nancy Cowles for the opportunity to participate in the program in February.

Cowles, along with four other local LWV members, asked the applicants about their interests in politics and why they wanted to participate in the program.  Winners were selected based on the interview and their demonstrated interest in the legislation process.

“I was so thrilled when I found out I got the spot,” said Levin.  “I had the opportunity to connect with other students before the event through a Facebook group, where we introduced ourselves and spoke about our interests.”

On Sunday, Levin met up with other students attending Students Inside Albany from Long Island and took the Amtrak to the Albany-Rensselaer station.  The Students Inside Albany group first took a tour of the capital led by assistant curator Mr. Stewart Lehman.

They went to the State Museum, where students learned about the history of New York State government.  The group also visited the Senate Room, which was originally designed by Henry Hobson Richardson.

“The Senate Room was extraordinary,” said Levin.  “When the Capital building was built, they had materials shipped from all over the world.  The seats are Spanish leather, the pillars are Scottish sandstone, and the walls are covered in gold leaf.  It was very impressive.”

In the evening, the participants attended a lecture called “NYS politics: Who’s Really in Charge?” led by Ms. Jennifer Wilson, the Director of Program and Policy.

She discussed corruption within the government and explained the differences between federal and state legislature, noting that 33 state officials have stepped down on misconduct charges since 2000.  Chaperones from the League of Women Voters also attended the lecture and added additional input.

“Senators don’t want to enact reforms which will make it more difficult for them to get elected,” said Executive Director of the League of Women Voters Ms. Laura Ladd Bierman.

The next day, students participated in the Citizens Lobbying lecture led by Ms. Barbara Bartoletti, the legislative director for the League of Women Voters of New York State.

Bartoletti spoke about the details of the lobbying process, explaining that the main points should be prepared in advance and that phone calls or meetings are the most efficient means of contact.

“You never want to burn bridges with a representative just because you disagree on a certain issue. Your representatives are there to listen to you,” said Bartoletti.

Afterwards, students had the opportunity to shadow their local assembly member. Unfortunately, Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso could not supervise Levin and the other student from his district, so they shadowed Assemblyman John McDonald, who represents Albany, Saratoga, and Rensselaer. They were able to learn about the responsibilities of an assembly member and what their job entails.

“I would have liked to meet our state assemblyman, but he was unavailable at that time,” said Levin.  “Assemblyman McDonald was still extremely helpful and explained everything that was happening while the assembly was in session.”

On Tuesday, Senator Elaine Phillips’ assistant gave Levin and Manhasset junior Emily Cruz an exclusive tour of the media center.  They saw the recording studio where senators record speeches, as well as the silent room where they conduct radio broadcasts.

Levin and the other student briefly spoke to Phillips about her goals before the senate meeting.  Phillips is currently working on a bill that will reimburse commuters for the recent delays at Penn Station.

Students In Albany concluded shortly after the senate meeting.  On Wednesday morning, Levin took the train back to Port Washington.  She left the experience having gained more knowledge of the New York legislation process.

“This program takes you out of your comfort zone and really makes you an educated voter,” said Ms. Wilson. “You can now pass on that information and create a larger group of informed voters.”