On Thursday, April 24, we were honored to host Congresswoman Betty McCollum at St. Paul Preparatory School. More than a hundred students gathered in the third floor theater space to watch the Congresswoman speak. Our students recognized that this was a very rare opportunity because out of the 315 million US residents, there are only 435 who serve in our nation’s House of Representatives. As one of those 435, we commend Congresswoman McCollum for taking time out of her day to speak to our students about education, human rights, and cultural exchange and understanding. It was clear throughout her speech that Congresswoman McCollum is a great advocate for international education and global understanding; two values that we at SPP promote daily. She was eager to take questions from students, learn where they were from, and make connections with them individually. For their part, our students were well-prepared with poignant questions on topics like foreign relations, education, bullying, and women’s rights.
Kate Woolever-Martinez, our art teacher and the coordinator for Congresswoman McCollum’s visit, had this to say about the event. “Something I kept hearing our students talk about was how ‘normal’ she seemed. They said they were very nervous to talk to her but once the questions started they were surprised how easy it felt to talk to her knowing she was a Congresswoman.”
“She seemed very human,” Irene Hark Wachtler, a sophomore, commented. “I thought she did a good job responding to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. She also made good connections to our international school.”
After Congresswoman McCollum finished speaking, her staff stayed behind to meet with seven female students from SPP. This meeting was designed to allow our students to exchange cultural stories with her staff. The staff was inspired by the struggles our students have gone through in pursuit of their education and hope to bring these stories back to Congresswoman McCollum to help her pursue her legislative goals in the areas of educational diversity and the rights of women throughout the world.
Woolever-Martinez commented that students, “felt inspired to return to their own countries to create positive change or stay here for college and get more involved in politics!”