Vargas Delivers Maiden Speech on Civics Bill as House Enacts Education Legislation

File photograph. (Image licensed by Ingram Image.)

Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, supported by Rep. Andy Vargas and Rep. Diana DiZoglio, helped pass civics legislation Wednesday at the Statehouse. (File photograph)

Members of the Haverhill Statehouse delegation Wednesday heralded the House’s adoption of a wide-ranging civics legislation bill that encourages engagement among elementary and high school students across the Commonwealth.

Freshman Rep. Andy Vargas delivered his maiden speech on the floor Wednesday as he negotiated an amendment that targets civic education funding for economically disadvantages populations.

“The adoption of civic education legislation has been a priority for me since high school and I’m so pleased to be here as a member to enact it. It’s a surreal feeling,” Vargas, who worked with youth advocacy group Teens Leading the Way during his time at Haverhill High, said in a statement. “Today, we’re sending a strong message that no matter the academic level, no matter the socioeconomic status—every student deserves to be equipped with the experiences and tools that will allow their to implement change.”

As the legislation moves onto a conference committee, Linda Dean Campbell—who filed the bill along with Senate President Harriette Chandler—is hopeful the measure will make students more informed voters.

“In addition to the fact that civics was a stand-alone class before and is needed to ensure that future generations understand the basics of how our government works, this legislation aims to improve voter turnout,” said Campbell. “Polling suggests that approximately 32 percent of millennials feel they have a legitimate voice in the (election) process.”

The legislation, passed Wednesday with the support of Vargas and Rep. Diana DiZoglio, introduces a High School Voter Challenge, in which a student outreach officer will be chosen from each public high school and be responsible for holding a voter registration drive in their community.

It’s important to allow students flexibility to become interested in civics, said Campbell.

“Project-based learning can be on almost any topic that relates to government and it can be integrated into other subject matters: It could include an environmental issue in the community. . .issues of social justice, school safety, social media regulation—or on any of hundreds of ways that government impacts their lives where they are.”