Testimony influences new legislation
William Clark was nervous as he began to address legislators at the Washington Capitol. “It’s like my whole body was shaking,” remembered the sixth-grader.
He wanted to meet with a representative when his father, Sidney, took him to Olympia last February to visit the Legislature. But he hadn’t planned on public speaking until he was invited to a caucus meeting on proposed legislation.
To calm his nerves, he reached for a little humor, telling the legislators and staffers, “I’m supposed to be in math right now, so thank you.”
Then William spoke seriously about the topic of the meeting, which happened to be an issue to which he’d given a lot of thought: schools’ handling of meal debts.
“Every kid should be able to eat. It’s not even a thing to debate about,” said William, who attends Discovery Middle School.
In some ways he’d been building to this moment for years. His kindergarten teacher at Marshall Elementary, Carrie Newton, noticed the intelligent child’s growing interest in political and civic issues. “He was so honest,” said Newton. “And he was all about justice, fairness and equity—even at that young of an age. He was very confident and would stand up for any other child at school who was having a problem.”
When he started holding political discussions before school and during recess, she encouraged him to pursue a career in law. William’s sister’s and father’s interest in politics also propelled his awareness. His experience as a Discovery ambassador to new students has honed his leadership skills and poise.
That background paid off in Olympia. Not only did William meet Gov. Jay Inslee, former Secretary of State John Kerry and several representatives, he delivered a persuasive speech that earned a standing ovation. It also earned support for the legislation from at least one legislator who didn’t plan to support the bill before hearing from William.
The House and Senate passed the bill and, as this issue went to press, the Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights Act will become law in June 2018.
William plans to continue his advocacy for the causes he supports and eventually apply to be a legislative page. He also hopes to study marine and wildlife biology in college and earn a master’s degree or doctorate.
This isn’t the end of the story William Clark’s leadership. He’s just getting started.
This and many more stories appeared in the May 2018 issue of Inside Vancouver Public Schools. Want more news about schools? Subscribe to our e-newsletter.