How Much Have We Lost?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

2015 Amundson Institute Presents Policy Projects

This past year, I held my 5th consecutive Amundson Institute. This engaging program was orginially
founded by my predecessor, the Honorable Kris Amundson. This program allows for the 44th District high school juniors and seniors that qualify for the program to join me during the Virginia Legislative Session. During this time, the students experience the Virginia state government first hand, while learning the intricate legislative process.

I was fortunate enough to have 6 very qualified students from Mount Vernon and West Potomac High School join me in Richmond this year and see what the politicians they read about do. From West Potomac High School, we had Kelly O'Meara, Margret O'Meara, Jayne Orleans and Emma Kelly. From Mount Vernon High School, we had Catherine Ming and Taamson Joshua. These 6 students were chosen because they demonstrated a passion for their school work, community and leadership. 
   While the primary component of the institute is the trip to Richmond, I also require that each individual student pick an issue to present that they are both passionate about and pertains to the 44th District. In the former years, I have drafted bills based on these projects.


       This year, the students addressed a variety of subjects:

***To see a specific student's presentation, please click on their name and you will be redirected to their project***
  • Ms. Emma Kelly, a junior at West Potomac High School, presented on the need for free screenings for 504 Plans for standardized testing. A 504 Plan is used to ensure that students with mental or phyiscal handicaps receive the help and assistance they need in order to succeed in school. Currently, children who are physically and mentally disabled that need a 504 Plan evaluation, but cannot afford it are suffering during standardized tests due to lack if assistance. Ms. Kelly proposes a bill that would allow these economically disadvantaged households easier access by requiring schools to have therapists in place that are able to diagnose and implement a plan to help these students succeed. 
  • Ms. Jayne Orleans, a senior at West Potomac High School, proposed implementing riparian buffers to protect the Potomac River from nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. In large quantities, these pollutants create Dead Zones, areas of water with excessive nutrient pollution, that causes aquatic life to either leave the area or die. Ms. Orleans proposes that by utilizing riparian buffers, we would be able to help protect our local water and environment from excessive runoff.
  • Mr. Kelly O'Meara, a senior at West Potomac High School, proposed mandating school programs that would teach both parents and students how to effectively manage teen stress. Mr. O'Meara came up with this proposal due to the recent increase in teen suicide because of academic and social pressures. He proposes that by encouraging more mandated and open communication between students and their families, we might be able to help parents and children learn how to balance school work, while encouraging stress-reliving personal time. 
  • Ms. Catherine Ming, a senior at Mount Vernon High School, presented a project that would implement a container deposit law that would encourage recycling by refunding those who return recyclable bottles. This bill would require a refundable deposit on containers that are turned into mandated locations. This practice would encourage responsibility and reduce waste. 
  • Ms. Margaret O'Meara, a senior at West Potomac High School, presented the need for crosswalks along US 1 to ensure pedestrian safety. With the increase in traffic on US 1, there is an increase in the need for protective travel measures. Ms. O'Meara proposed installing more cross walks and traffic lights to help ensure pedestrian welfare.

From environmental issues to disability service accessibility, the Amundson Institute students provided well-researched and thought out projects. It was my pleasure to show such a distinguished group of young leaders an inside look of their state government. 


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