Civic Engagement in Action: Local Legislators Visit Classes

Every year, Center for New Americans (CNA) invites local legislators to attend classes.

During the week of February 11, 2024, CNA hosted visits from two legislators: State Representative Natalie M. Blais from the 1st Franklin District and State Senator Jo Comerford, who represents the Hampshire, Franklin, and Worcester district.

Two weeks later, on February 28, the Springfield class met with State Senators Jacob Oliveira, representing the Hampden, Hampshire and Worcester district, and Adam Gomez, who represents the Hampden district.

On March 12,

Their engagement with our students makes civics real and reinforces for students that our legislators are accessible to them.

Rep. Natalie M. Blais: Bridging the Gap

On February 12, Rep. Natalie M. Blais made an impactful visit to our Greenfield classes, engaging with students from various levels of learning. Accompanied by beginner-level teacher Tamara and intermediate-level teacher Anna (and joined by advanced-level teacher Ragan and her students via Zoom), Rep. Blais shared invaluable insights and took questions from students on a wide array of subjects, including transportation, housing, healthcare, and workers’ rights. Her commitment to to addressing community concerns and educating our students on their civic rights and responsibilities was on full display.

Senator Jo Comerford: “I Work for You”

The following day, February 13, State Senator Jo Comerford conveyed a powerful message to our students during her visit (via Zoom) to morning classes in Amherst, Greenfield, and Northampton: “I work for you.” This simple yet profound statement emphasizes elected officials’ servant leadership role. While warmly welcoming questions from students of all levels, Senator Comerford not only provided insights into the workings of government but also inspired our students to see themselves as active participants in the democratic process.

Senators Jacob Oliveira and Adam Gomez

Senators Jacob Oliveira and Adam Gomez had an engaging discussion with the Springfield class and teacher Ash on February 28th. Students were given a chance to voice their concerns about affordable housing, accessible healthcare, and robust public transportation, and the senators responded thoughtfully and graciously.

Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa

Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa visited Northampton classes on March 12, answering questions about affordable housing, public transportation, and education.

Making Civics Real

Local legislators’ visits are inspiring displays of civic engagement in action. They not only demonstrate to our students how accessible our Western Mass delegation is but also motivate legislators to address barriers specific to their immigrant constituents with legislative action, such as proposing improvements to transportation in our rural area and making re-credentialing processes for employment easier. Seeing direct results from these conversations shows students the importance of civics and encourages them to use their voices for the benefit of our community.

We extend our heartfelt thanks to these legislators for their time, insights, and support of civics, citizenship, and public adult education. Their commitment to making civics real for everyone is a testament to the power of engaged political representation and its vital role in our democracy.