A Day at the Capitol

IMG_20140313_085411 We arrived at the capitol this morning bright and early, eager for our busy day of observing the legislative session in full swing. We began our day with a tour of the Capitol building, given by the Minnesota Historical Society. Split into two groups, we were able to learn about the remarkable architecture and history of the Capitol building, in addition to viewing the chamber of the House, Senate and the Supreme Court. Then, Mr. Wiggin gave the whole class a supplemental tour to see the governor’s wing and the governor portraits.

At 10:00 am, we went through the tunnels to the State Office Building and observed a committee meeting addressing a bill proposed on student multilingual certification in K-12 schools. The school was recognized mid-way through the committee meeting by Representative and Committee Chairman Carlos Mariani.

After our visit to the committee, we went to the Senate and observed the session. After calling to order, the Senate made several motions, but adjourned the meeting after only ten minutes. Students were a little disoriented when they realized it was over, because the senators never really came fully to order or even sat down before the session was adjourned.

After lunch, we went to more committee hearings. Students could choose from a variety of committees including Education, Environment and Energy, Judiciary, Elections, or Taxes. For example, a few students and myself went to the Senate Education committee to see consideration and testimony addressing native and English language development of English learners. The bill promoted the use of native language in the continual development of English language and provided for educator professional development in best bilingual lesson delivery practices and cross-cultural competency.

Finally, we attended a political rally in the rotunda addressing independent private schools. Two students from SPP – Mary S. (Poland) and Virginia V. (Italy) – gave short speeches on the value of their unique experience at St. Paul Prep, supported by their classmates who filled out more than half of the chairs in the rotunda. Other speakers continued to honor our school in their own speeches and the last speaker finished the program by reiterating his wholehearted support of school choice for Minnesota students.

The trip was incredibly enriching for many students. Tanisa K. enthused that she learned so much about Minnesota culture by learning the history of the capitol building. Daniel T. made connections to the content he is learning in AP US Government and Politics class. “For example, when we have the test of the chapter ten and eleven and I was reading about the Sunshine Act,” he said, “I didn’t really know what it was about. Today, I was questioning myself why we can go to all the rooms and hear what they were talking about. I thought it would be all private but even as a foreigner, I could see. I thought that these kinds of meetings were private and just for people with special rights or privileges. I didn’t realize what this Sunshine Act really was about until we went here.” Nicole Rivera added, “I really enjoyed the last committee we received because they [the lawmakers] were fascinated with the international students. I also learned about architecture and I really loved that part.”

–  Kara Redding, Social Studies Teacher

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Press Release: A Lesson From Obama

St. Paul Preparatory students received a lesson on infrastructure from President Obama

ST. PAUL, Minn – Among the throng of Minnesotans crowded into the Union Depot Wednesday afternoon to hear President Barack Obama speak was a group of international high school students.IMG_2386

The group of about 50 students, together with a few teachers and staff members, walked just a couple blocks from the downtown campus of St. Paul Preparatory School.

The students were ecstatic at the president’s charisma. An Afghani student excitedly reported, “So my favorite part was that I said ‘Hi!’ to him and he waved back!” A student from Venezuela said, “It was amazing! It was something from another world. Getting to see a president so close – it’s like WHOA.” A Pakistani student told of her highlights, “I have many favorite parts but one of the favorites was when he did thumbs up. Then, when he was talking – seeing him talk was so exciting! He was always on the TV but seeing him live was so exciting and great.”

Yesterday’s speech from President Obama sparked a great dinner conversation topic for the international students and their American host families. The topics of his address – infrastructure and transportation – are of great significance for St. Paul Prep students, as almost all of them rely on public transportation every day to get to and from school.

A Hungarian student stated, “It was good to show up on this event because it was an amazing experience to see the President of the United States. I was excited about everything because this is my first time in the U.S.” A student from Colombia said, “It was a good experience because he’s doing reform for more opportunities for jobs here in Minnesota.”

St. Paul Preparatory social studies teacher and Model UN advisor Kara Redding had the idea Monday to walk her class down to the Union Depot to wait in line for tickets to hear the president speak. A few other teachers joined along with their classes. After waiting in the long line for a few hours, each student walked out with a ticket.

Ms. Kara Redding, chaperone and social studies teacher, reflects on the experience:

I was overjoyed to see how eager and excited the students were this morning. We took almost fifty students to the speech and many of them dressed for success by donning their best suits and fanciest dresses. Every single student who got a ticket on Monday came on time and ready to leave, carrying lunches and cameras. It was clear from the outset that every single student understood what a rare opportunity this was and how lucky they were to participate.

We stood in line outside of security for almost two hours and spent another hour and a half waiting inside the Depot for the President to arrive. Throughout the wait, students never lost their positivity, chatting with each other and engaging in the ever-present cultural exchange. We also met many community members excited to hear about our school and to learn from our students about their unique experiences and what brought them to the speech. I think our greatest accomplishment today was making a positive impression on our community.

Before the Pledge of Allegiance, students were eager for me to teach it to them so they could participate and they were fascinated with the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, insisting they must learn the words to that as well. It was very difficult to see in the standing room only section, where people with our tickets were designated to stand, but my group was able to get near the railing at the far side of the stage, which ended up being where the President emerged. We were perhaps seven feet from him as he entered and our students were overwhelmed with excitement to see him so close. Throughout his speech, our students waved American flags and applauded his jokes about the cold Minnesota winter. It seemed his speech was so short, after waiting all that time, but many of the students were bounding out of the Depot, excited to share their photos and stories with each other.

2014-02-26 15.15.21 We're among the first couple hundred to arrive President Obama SPP students wait_Opportunity for All