Five members of our new Student Leadership Program in Pennsylvania spoke with U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey Jr., of Pennsylvania last month, about the importance of clean water in the Commonwealth.
"The general message I wanted to leave with the senator was that people really do care about clean water and agriculture in Pennsylvania, and we so badly want to see positive change," Fairfield High School student Abby Hebenton said. "What we do in Pennsylvania affects everyone downstream, not just Pennsylvanians. We are so behind compared to other states, things are really going to have to change as far as laws and regulations go, in order to change how citizens think and act in regards to water and environmental conservation."
"We chatted with Claire Borzner, Senator Casey's legislative correspondent, who was very friendly and interested in listening to our thoughts on the senator's work, and answered any questions we had," Hebenton added. "Surprisingly, few people actually reach out to the senator with issues they think should be addressed, although Ms. Borzner informed us that she and her colleagues read every letter or e-mail that go through their office."
"We wanted to make the senator aware of the struggles and successes of the Chesapeake Bay," said Allison Markel of Cedar Cliff High School. "In D.C., we were able to serve as passionate witnesses for the Bay's significance in Pennsylvania."
The Student Leadership Program is open to all high school students and is designed to give them a voice and an active role in the fight for clean water in Pennsylvania. The Student Leadership Council will meet throughout the year through video-conferencing and will plan and coordinate advocacy and restoration activities throughout the Bay watershed in Pennsylvania.
"I thought that it would be a really amazing opportunity to meet with someone in authority who has the power to make positive changes regarding something I am very passionate about," Hebenton said. "I was just looking forward to getting to see the political side of environmental issues and hopefully networking with some important people who have the power to make change."
Cumberland Valley High School student Maria Seitz added: "I always really value the chance to meet and speak with Senator Casey because I know it's not something that a lot of people get to do . . . just by being there we were letting him know that young people from Pennsylvania are concerned about the water quality problems Pennsylvania is facing."
Other parts of the visit made lasting impressions on the students, including speaking with CBF's Federal Policy Director Alix Murdoch and touring the Capitol. "I will never forget the experience of sitting in on the Senate," Seitz said. "That was really cool! A great experience that I wish more people could have."
Cumberland Valley High School students Anna Pauletta and Mallory Taramelle-Dickinson also made the trip to Washington, D.C. to visit with Senator Casey.
"As a student team, we are working toward a healthier Bay and to ensure a better future for our loved ones," Markel added. "I hope the senator was moved by our desire to stand up for something bigger than ourselves."
— B.J. Small, CBF's Pennsylvania Media and Communications Coordinator
Interested in learning more about CBF's Student Leadership Program in Pennsylvania? Contact program coordinator Lane Whigham at firstname.lastname@example.org.