BY JACQUELINE PARKER
Albertus students became active United States citizens when they visited Congresswoman Lowey in her White Plains office. Senior Class President Arnell Dandridge, political reporter for the Magnus Monitor newspaper junior Michael Strack, feature reporter for the Magnus Monitor newspaper sophomore Jacqueline Parker, and Magnus Monitor advisor Mrs. Rose Ruppino met with Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey on May 2, as part of the 18th District Congressional Youth Council.
The group joined students from Rye Country Day School and Ossining High School for a roundtable session with the Congresswoman, whose purpose for the meeting is to encourage America’s youth to become aware of government issues and current events. Lowey said she believes it is imperative for youth of legal age to vote and get involved in government affairs, and to take their interests in government beyond the classroom and their homes.
The meeting began with an introduction of the members present and an appeal from the Congresswoman to the students to speak freely on any topic. Topics raised included the rising cost of college education, pension and healthcare reforms, NYS curriculum and standardized tests, Indian Point evacuation, tax reforms, public and private school bus transportation, and the use of alternate energy sources.
Arnell Dandridge asked the Congresswoman about her plans to address the escalating cost of college tuition and to help Americans afford higher education. Congresswoman Lowey replied with agreeable concern, citing that Fordham University’s yearly cost is nearly $60,000. She discussed the Student Loan Forgiveness Act, as well as increasing the Pell Grant program, which gives students need-based grants.
With regard to educational funding, the Congresswoman mentioned pension and healthcare reform for the public school education system to help ease budgets. She also expressed a desire for schools to focus on special education, so that federal aid could be provided.
Dandridge raised a question pertaining to public schools providing busing to private schools, claiming the current plan to limit bus transportation to students within a five-mile radius of the school would greatly impact Albertus Magnus students who live beyond the allowable miles. Congresswoman Lowey’s response was, as she said, “on the fence,” saying parents who can afford tuitions of $40,000 a year to private schools should not rely on taxpayers to bus their students. She noted that she feels differently about Albertus’ case because tuition is much lower and busing would be necessary.
Michael Strack asked the Congresswoman about her plan for tax reform, to which she replied representatives must get rid of loopholes.
Jacqueline Parker addressed concern for alternate energy sources such as the use of solar panels in Rockland County. Congresswoman Lowey said she endorsed New York companies like Mercury solar and Portchester. She supports investing in wind, water, solar, and electric energy sources, specifically, electric cars.
The meeting lasted 45 minutes, and then her assistants signaled it was time to move to the next venue. The Congresswoman thanked all for attending and took pictures with the group before heading to Mount Kisco for her next meeting.
The Albertus students left with a sense of accomplishment. Mrs. Ruppino said, “The students were well prepared, professional, and eloquent. This was a fabulous opportunity for them to participate in government and to realize their voices matter. We thank Congresswoman Lowey for inviting us.”