GCC Students See State Government, Up Close and Personal

 

Greenfield Recorder 10/24/2014, Page C05

By Mary McClintock, ’82

Students in GCC Professor Buz Eisenberg’s Political Science classes do more than read about state government, they meet the people who make the laws. On November 13, Eisenberg and 19 GCC students will travel to Representative Paul Mark’s 2nd Berkshire Day at the Massachusetts State House. They’ll join people from local government, education, business, labor, and cultural organizations to learn about what happens in the State House. They’ll hear presentations by Massachusetts legislative leaders, including the Speaker of the House, State Auditor, State Treasurer, Stan Rosenberg, Ben Downing, Steve Kulik, and others. Touring the State House, they’ll sit where the legislature sits and stand where the Speaker of the House stands. The GCC students also will get to know community leaders from Franklin and Berkshire counties.

Mark started the now-annual regional leadership conference in 2011 to increase collaboration in the region and to shed light on what happens at the State House. After attending the first conference, Eisenberg asked Mark to include GCC students. Since then, a wide range of students have attended the conference, including GCC Student Senators, veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, andteenagers who are dual-enrolled from their high schools.

Mark said, ‘I love watching people from the district ask questions directly to high ranking officials and teach these officials more about our region. It’s a great learning experience for everyone involved. This is a great opportunity for GCC students to learn more about their government and to get interested in the legislative process. It is very important to me that tomorrow’s voters and leaders understand government is not a mysterious third party entity, it is a process by which everyone has a say in determining the direction of our society’ Eisenberg said, ‘The students ask excellent questions and the leaders treat the students with respect. They develop a sense that they can hold their own while talking with community leaders and state dignitaries. The students get to understand how lives are impacted by what happens in this building.

And, they learn the historical context, that 200 years ago, citizens were doing this. This is an example of Representative Mark’s unrelenting commitment to public higher education and GCCs commitment to civic engagement.’

Victoria Damato, 36, from Athol participated in 2nd Berkshire Day while a student at GCC She gradu­ated from GCC in May with an Associate degree in Criminal Justice. Now studying Law and Society at Western New England University, Damato plans to attend law school in the future. She said, ‘The leaders we met were very open and made us feel like we were important. I’ve been in the United States for ten years. Coming from Poland, this is very different than anything that happens in Poland, where there is a big line drawn between citizens and people in government. For me, wanting to study law, it was powerful to sit where legislation is crafted. In the House Chamber, I became aware of the significance of what goes on there and felt the connectedness of the long history of legislation that has been brought forward in that very chamber. I also became more aware of the deeper responsibility that politicians embrace while in office. There are p eople you meet who have the power to transform and change your life by exposing you to something that would never have happened without them. Buz Eisenberg and Paul Mark have been that for me.’

For information about 2nd Berkshire Day, contact Representative Mark at paul.mark@mahouse.gov or(413) 464-5635 or (617) 722-2210.