It’s an unusually warm day for the first day of February when more than 140 Anne Arundel middle and high schoolers trek across Bladen Street in Annapolis to lobby their state representatives. From bills on extending a student’s ability to consent to medical treatment to increasing the financial support to the Bay Restoration Fund, there’s quite a lot of issues these students want to discuss.
“It’s important for the students to know what’s going on, and it’s important for our legislators to know how the students feel on some of these issues—that this is something we’re passionate about,” says Chesapeake High School senior Mark Ritterpusch about the annual Chesapeake Regional Association of Student Councils Lobbying Day.
As I accompany a group of Meade Middle Schoolers on their way to track down their Senator Ed DeGrange Sr., I wonder if in fact they really are interested in the day’s activities and the issues at hand. I ask about their particular allegiance to Senate Bill 240 regarding the Bay Restoration Fund, and if they (or their parents) really would be willing to pay more for clean water. I am answered with a resounding, unwavering “Yes.” (Sadly, Senator DeGrange, among many others, were not in their offices when the students arrived—taken away by Gov. Martin O’Malley’s State of the State Address. But other staff members were on hand to answer questions and pass along messages.)
Later, after CBFers Jenn Aiosa and Jeff Rogge gave an hour-long, interactive presentation on the Bay’s health and why we need to save it, I sit down with Ritterpusch again and ask him…Why the Chesapeake Bay? “Because I live on it,” he says. “I’m a fisherman, a crabber, a wakeboarder…everything I do—everything we all do—comes back to the Chesapeake Bay. It’s something the entire state can feel a part of—because we are.” We could all learn a thing or two from this 18-year-old.