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Senator Eichelberger’s Second Annual Student Leadership Program a success

On Thursday, May 8, Senator John H. Eichelberger, Jr., hosted his second annual William Penn Leadership Program at Penn State Altoona.
About 140 select 11th grade students from 21 high schools in Bedford, Blair, Fulton, Huntingdon and Mifflin counties took on the title of “Senator” for a day, putting their months of legislative research and strategic preparation to the ultimate test – a lively day of debate with their peers.
Although the student “Senators” learned about presidential candidates and their strategic use of technology like MySpace and YouTube to spread their message, the students also had an exciting opportunity to spread their own message.
During the “FireAway” segment of the program, students debated each other head-to-head, microphone in hand, confidently making their support or opposition for legislation known.
Sen. Eichelberger’s William Penn Leadership Program is designed to give students hands-on government experience tackling real state issues. This year, students researched and debated Senate Bill 1220 – the Real ID and Biometric and Economic Privacy Act, Senate Bill 1255 – the Conscientious Objection Act, and House Bill 1028 – Electoral College Reform.
“Every year, I am energized by the students at this event. They came prepared with different strategies, notes and personal experiences to justify their positions on different bills. They all came without any fear of challenging alternative perspectives. There are a lot of good kids out there who can make a difference in our society in the future, and these were some of the best,” said Sen. Eichelberger.
New additions to this year’s program included “Coffee and Conversation with the Senator – Teachers Only,” offering the teachers and advisors an opportunity to meet with Eichelberger to discuss their ideas and perspectives on state education issues.
Also new this year, short video clips of other Pennsylvania State Senators presenting their positions on the very bills students would debate at William Penn. Sen. Eichelberger is the first Senator to employ technology to incorporate his senate colleagues into his student government program in this way. Students also heard from Representative Gary Haluska (D-Cambria), who was the luncheon speaker.
“The William Penn Leadership Program is designed to be non-partisan and educational. I want students to come away with a genuine interest in Pennsylvania’s political process, and to do that they should know it is okay to powerfully and respectfully disagree,” said Sen. Eichelberger. “The videos we presented this year demonstrated how differently Senators can think about a single issue. This is a reality in the legislative process, and students were able to see why it can be so difficult to find consensus in Harrisburg.”
The 2008 William Penn Leadership Program is underwritten by the following sponsors who collectively covered the entire cost of the event: Penn State Altoona, AT&T, Dominion People’s, MeadWestvaco, Sheetz, DelGrosso, Penelec, McCartneys, Altoona First Savings Bank, Leonard S. Fiore, The Hite Company, H. Barefoot Trucking, Inc., Ritchey’s Dairy, RC’s Print Specialists, WalMart, Best Buy and Kmart.