Political panel discussion fosters two-way learning

Meyersdale Area School District  |  Posted on

MAHS hosted a political panel discussion on April 23 with Pennsylvania State Senator Pat Stefano (back row, far left), Somerset County Commissioner Gerald Walker (back row, far right) and Meyersdale Mayor Michael Brant (back row, center). The panel included the following students: (front row) Elizabeth Sayler, Alix Tipton and Karlee Witherite; and (middle row) Dawson Rough, Brycen Sechler and Gabriel Kretchman.

A panel of three area elected officials met with a group of Meyersdale Area High School (MAHS) students on April 23 as part of a political discussion. Pennsylvania State Senator Pat Stefano, Somerset County Commissioner Gerald Walker, and Meyersdale Mayor Michael Brant were in attendance. The event was coordinated by Mrs. Jessica Deakins, MAHS English teacher, with the assistance of Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) Advocacy Ambassador Dale Kirsch.

Deakins then selected a group of students to participate in the panel, based on History and English faculty recommendation.

“We wanted to involve students who would develop and articulate thoughtful, relevant questions and who had a genuine interest in engaging with politicians,” she explained.

The panel included Elizabeth Sayler, Alix Tipton, Karlee Witherite, Gabriel Kretchman, Brycen Sechler and Dawson Rough.

Deakins and members of the panel met for working lunches during which students brainstormed topic ideas and refined the wording of questions, which covered interesting and varied topics such as each politician’s educational and work experiences and his ideas for improving infrastructure in Somerset County.

Some questions were related to local issues, such as infrastructure and the economy. Other topics included education funding, student loan debt, gun control, term limits and political and racial divides.

All three members of the panel were impressed with the substance of the questions and discussion presented by the students.

The gentlemen answered their questions in a thorough manner and engaged in discussions about these topics, and many more, for nearly two hours.

Deakins said the event was both educational and informative for both the panel and the guests.

“The goals of the event were for students to learn more about the daily responsibilities of politicians who serve the area and for students to gain insight on topics that affect them as they transition from high school students to graduates ready to enter the workforce, the military or college,” she explained. “This forum also enlightened politicians regarding the issues and concerns most important to young voters.”