FULTON, NY – No questions were off limits as the sixth grade students of Volney Elementary dressed the part to hold a mock press conference recently for NYS Assemblyman Will Barclay.
Barclay, representing the 120th district in the New York State Assembly stood before the sea of young press and tackled the questions they presented on a variety of different subjects.
The students, sitting before Assemblyman Barclay with their fedoras and press passes stood to call his attention to state their name and the publication they represent before asking their questions, just as a real press conference.
All of the questions came directly from the students and were from topics of their choosing ranging from gun control to minimum wage to school related topics such as common core, state testing and school lunches.
Sixth grade teacher at Volney William Cahill said the students found most of their information from Assemblyman Barclay’s website in which he regularly puts up relevant columns and from national and international news stories as they watch on a news program directed at children their age.
Aside from learning more about their local representatives, political awareness, the importance of voting and the workings of the press, Cahill said some of the most important lessons of the assignment did not come from a book.
“Things like being still, making eye contact, sitting up straight and listening, they’re getting pushed out as skills and those are things that should never be gone,” said Cahill, who explained that the lessons on civics were just as important, if not more so than the lessons learned from the curriculum.
Cahill was left with a prideful response to his student’s representation of themselves at the mock conference, recognizing that in this day and age patience is a trait that is often misplaced.
“Kids today are losing the trait of patience. With technology as it is, they are used to never having to wait for anything. It’s good to get them involved with hands on learning, but it’s just as important to teach them how to be patient, sit still and listen to what someone is saying,” he said. “And I think they all did just great with that today.”
However, the kids did learn vocabulary and concepts they hadn’t otherwise known or learned before from reading Barclay’s columns and having conversation on the subject matter.
“They were all concepts you need for citizenship, not just a score on a state test,” Cahill said. “The Governor want us to spend our time testing our students when we should be inspiring them.”
Sixth grade student, Samantha Ponzo of Stephanie Zimmerman’s class was pleased with her experience reporting at Barclay’s press conference.
“We learned a lot about public speaking before he came here,” Ponzo said. “I think it was great to have him, his answers were excellent!”
Marissa Bowering, fellow sixth grade student, also thought Barclay answered all the questions adequately and gave good reasoning for his response.
She said the lesson helped spark her interest in politics, encouraged her to stay involved and ensure she uses her right to vote when she is of age to do so.
Barclay answered students’ questions on important topics such as his job in State Assembly, hunting and fishing regulations, gun control laws, minimum wage, nuclear energy, state lottery, infrastructure, the presidential election, common core, state testing and more.
One of Barclay’s most resonating responses came from a student reporter’s question of what he thinks is the most important trait to be successful in life.
“I can tell you one thing, you’ve got to work hard,” he said. “I haven’t seen any real substitute for hard work, remember that as you go through school. Sometimes it’s not fun, sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do, but ultimately, it’s hard work.”
He left the students on a note of inspiration and encouragement.
“As we tend to focus on competitive values in school, civics seems to get lost a little. We ultimately need, particularly local, good leadership. You’re all going to be leaders in our area and in your community, I would encourage you to get involved,” he said. “As you get older, remember where you came from and don’t be afraid to step forward and get involved.”