“Do your homework!” State Assemblymember Mark Stone quipped without jurisdiction, drawing laughter from the student body.
Assemblyman Stone, a policy-maker and one of Kirby’s two esteemed guests, the other being Santa Cruz County District Supervisor Ryan Coonerty, was responding to a student’s question about homework policy. The impromptu levity after a lengthy Q&A session on complex topics including cyber-bullying, hate speech, campaign finance reform, and protesting kept the atmosphere light.
At 9:30 a.m. it had already been an exciting morning.
October 11th was special for Kirby School; our first Community Involvement Day was inspired by students who sought leadership from Kirby in designing programs to serve the community. The day was developed to pair conversations with public servants about civic engagement with meaningful activities where students gave time and energy to serving others–to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Preparing students to become informed and engaged citizens and supporting the development of agency is a fundamental part of the Kirby education.
We began by welcoming our two honorable visitors to campus. Both Mr. Stone and Mr. Coonerty spent an hour each with Kirby students and faculty, describing their beginnings in public service, the importance of getting involved, as well as answering questions from students. After their conversations, students broke into small groups focusing on different community service activities, including reading to the elderly, cleaning up the Harvey West community, creating a social justice tree art installation with leadership from the MAH, and assembling hygiene kits for the Rebele Homeless Shelter.
Our guests were met with sincere and thoughtful inquiry. Hands repeatedly flew into the air. Questions from students were posed with deep concern stemming from recent events and happenings in their community and around the world. Mr. Stone and Mr. Coonerty provided a welcome source of answers and information.
Supervisor Coonerty fielded more local questions, about affordable housing and rising home prices, bike trails, transportation concerns, driverless cars, water use and desalination, renewable energy, and homeless youth.
Assemblymen Stone spoke about NFL players taking a knee and protests, demonstrations, writing letters, and other ways to get the attention of policymakers. He fielded questions about hate speech and whether cyberbullying should be considered such, whether dollars should be considered a form of free speech, and campaign finance reform.
Both representatives encouraged students to apply their voices to the conversations that are shaping the future, noting that the policies being made today are the ones students will live by tomorrow. The parting message from both public officials was clear. Mark Stone said, “Vote. Participate. Be engaged in the civic process. If you don’t, someone else will.” And Ryan Coonerty left students with the thought, “Getting engaged can have a tremendous impact. Even life-saving.”