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Occupy – Dalton?


Wahconah Regional High School

Inspired by global demonstrations for change, two students created a local forum.

Berkshire Eagle 08/22/2012, Page B05

By Jenn Smith

Berkshire Eagle Staff

DALTON — Eleven months ago, people of all ages across the nation rallied behind the Occupy movement, the popular push to get politicians, bankers and other powers-that-be to rethink and develop ways to create more equitable economics and sustainable communities.

Inspired by the movement, Chris Darroch, now a rising senior at Wahconah Regional High School, created the Students Committee for Change, or SCC, an online Facebook forum last fall.

The site is still active and now hosts 155 members.

“ The Occupy stuff died down, but we’ve stayed kind of active,” Darroch told The Eagle on Tuesday.

This past year, Darroch and his classmates have held online discussions ranging from the Protect IP Act and Stop Online Piracy Act to water bottle recycling to issues with class schedules.

As Shivaram Muruga, a rising senior and SCC founding member, the discussions have been about “ really anything that affects students.”

“Right now, the price of college and health care are also big concerns,” Muruga said.

In addition, they’ve hosted a forum where seniors were able to pose questions about government and policies directly to state Rep. Paul Mark. They also held a televised debate among students about what the U. S. government should do about war and troops in the Middle East.

Back in April, some SCC members attended a Berkshire Chamber of Commerce forum with Mark and House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

“I think it’s great that they want to get involved and it’s amazing to me that they’re actually taking an interest [in political issues],” said Mark.

“Some of the students might be 18, others aren’t yet. But when they’re ready to vote, they’ll be able to make an informed decision,” he said.

Mark said that of all his constituents, he really hears from students. He said a student group in nearby Greenfield hosts an annual Franklin County Legislative Forum for Youth — something Mark said he’d support if students here were interested in organizing it. Heading into a new school year and their last year of high school, Darroch and Muruga said they’ll continue to host the Students Committee for Change and address issues brought up, including the November elections. They’ll also be looking to develop their own futures: Darroch is looking for colleges where he can study political science, while Muruga is interested in becoming a physician.

“I think students today see a lot of people complaining, but they don’t see a lot of people doing anything about it,” said Darroch.

“ The biggest problem is keeping people interested. Students have a lot on their minds like sports, working, school. We’re trying to remind them that some of these other issues are really important too,” he said.