On Thursday, November 2, 2023, South Fayette Township School District was proud to assist PA Senator Devlin Robinson in hosting his first “Senator For A Day” event.
Held at South Fayette High School, the event included eight freshmen students from South Fayette, along with students and teachers from the districts of Avonworth, Carlynton, Chartiers Valley, Montour, Moon, Upper St. Clair, and West Jefferson Hills.
After an opening session in which all participants were greeted by South Fayette’s Interim High School Principal Dr. Patricia Smith and Senator Robinson, the group was led through an explanation of the legislative process by Crystal Clark, General Counsel of the Senate. Students then broke into committees to discuss eight Senate bills:
The Education Committee reviewed a bill for allowing for armed school personnel and another focused on eliminating school property tax for seniors.
The Health and Human Services Committee discussed a bill for banning the sale of e-cigarettes as well a COVID vaccine requirement.
The Labor and Industry Committee looked at consumer fireworks permits and raising the minimum wage.
The Environmental Resources Committee examined tax credits for solar panels and the elimination of the gas tax.
“I was so encouraged and impressed by these future leaders, asking insightful and intelligent questions, challenging intent behind the mock bills and amendments, being thoughtful about fiscal impact on the state, etc.!” said Senator Robinson via social media. “It was so encouraging to see how engaged they all were, and how they jumped right into the process. Their ideas on these legislative issues were thoughtful and interesting, and all-around impressive!”
The four committees debated and amended their assigned bills before breaking for lunch provided by Parkway West Career and Technology Center. Afterward, they reconvened in the high school theatre which served as the Senate floor. Called to order by Senator Robinson, student senators were led through discussions and voting of five of the bills that had garnered the greatest support. Overall, four of the five bills were passed.
“It was such a pleasure to host this event for Senator Robinson,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michelle Miller. “The caliber of students representing the schools in his region was beyond impressive. Senator Robinson also did a wonderful job leading the students through the discussions and votes on each bill, taking the time to explain how particular instances may be handled on the actual Senate floor. As a former government teacher and current superintendent of a leading district in our region, the entire experience was such a joy for me on many levels.”
Several government relations professionals supported the day in various capacities and allowed the students even greater insight into their experiences in state government. In addition to representatives from Senator Robinson’s office who organized the event, Jen Statler, Assistant Director of Government Relations at Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA); Carrie Lews DelRosso, Senior Advisor of Government Relations at Buchanan Ingersoll; Kevin Kerr, Principal of Cozen O’Connor; and Chris Petrone, Senior Associate at Allegheny Strategy Partners, all served as moderators for the student committees. Panelists for the Education Committee included Margaret Durkin, Executive Director of TechNet; Rachael Heisler, Deputy Controller for Allegheny County; and Lindsey Flinn, Constituent Services Advisor for Representative Dan Miller. For the Health and Human Services Committee, panelists included Zac Gates, Associate Director, Legislative Affairs with the PA Medical Society and Representative Natalie Mihalik. Joelle Salerno, Assistant Director of National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) Western PA; Greg Morelan, State Director of National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB); and Andrew Novak, District Legislative Aide for Representative Valerie Gaydos, were panelists for the Labor and Industry Committee. For the Environmental Resources Committee, panelists included Dennis Troy, Founder of DTI Development; Sydney Miller, Associate with Ridge Policy Group; and Representative Arvind Venkat.
Under the guidance of their honors civics teacher Mr. Keven Gregg, the following ninth grade students participated in Senator for a Day from South Fayette High School: Madison Diehl, Nehanth Sai Dirisala, Harshith Krishna Ghanta, Colin Lowery, Barry Miller, Allyson Seabright, Harini Swaminathan, and Hamsini Yuvaraj.
“I was especially impressed with our freshmen students who thoughtfully contributed and participated along with peers from other schools who were mostly upperclassmen studying at the AP level or planning to pursue careers in law and government,” said Mr. Gregg. “I was encouraged and impressed by the insightful points and arguments that students from throughout our region were making, and they make me optimistic for the future of Pennsylvania and this country. This event brings to life the content I teach in class each day, and I look forward to participating again in the future.”