McNerney reaches out to high school students | February 22, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - February 22, 2008

McNerney reaches out to high school students

Visit near San Ramon Valley High only draws a few

by Meghan Neal

Despite being "one of the most politically active students on campus," Melanie Bowman, a 17-year-old senior at San Ramon Valley High School, felt shy about talking to her congressman.

Tuesday afternoon's gathering with U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney (D., 11th District) took place during the high school's lunch hour at Mountain Mike's Pizza on Hartz Avenue, so as to encourage students to attend.

However, only three students showed up to meet the congressman.

Bowman, one of the three, said she was frustrated by the apathy of her fellow students.

"I don't know that most people even think about the issues going on," she said. "It's sad to me that the discussion isn't even important to people."

Bowman said she tried to get an announcement in the school's e-bulletin to motivate kids to go, but people just didn't seem interested.

"I talked to a lot of people who didn't want to come because they can't vote yet," she said.

McNerney said he thinks it's important to help young people form their opinions, particularly on topics that will affect their future, such as global warming and the future of energy - which are topics that are particularly important to the congressman.

"It would be good to get them involved, get them at least thinking about these very large issues," he said.

McNerney started the Congress At Your Corner program, where he makes himself available at different popular locations, right after being sworn into office in January 2007, as an effort to reach out to people in his district.

He said the program is a good way to "be grounded in the community," and not lose touch with constituents.

At Tuesday's event, about a dozen people came to talk to the congressman about issues like alternative energy, the Iraq War, the economy, immigration and healthcare.

McNerney said young people are often interested in "wedge issues" like gay marriage and abortion, and that they tend to ask very direct questions, making it fun to talk to them.

"They have sort of a generational question: 'You guys have messed up our world, how are you going to fix it?'" he said.

Bowman explained that one reason for high school students' lack of interest in politics takes the form of a vicious cycle: Young people are apathetic because the government doesn't pay attention to them, but the government doesn't pay attention to them because they don't express interest.

"It's sort of a self-perpetuating circle," she said. "It's frustrating."


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