April 24, 2012 - Secretary of state speaks to Marysville civics class
Title: Secretary of state speaks to Marysville civics class
Date: April 24, 2012
By: Ashley Gebb
Standing in front of a room of high schoolers on Tuesday, California's Secretary of State Debra Bowen confessed that when she was their age, she had nary an idea she would ever run for public office.
Shy and a little nerdy, she would probably have been a computer geek if she was born a generation later, said Bowen, 56. The only political activism she showed in her youth was to protest a school policy that prohibited students from wearing pants.
Fast-forward several decades later, and she became the sixth women in California's history to be elected to statewide elected office. Bowen encouraged students to realize they can get involved in politics, whether volunteering on a campaign, serving as an intern or one day running for office.
Bowen, who was passing through Yuba County after a morning visit in Butte County, decided to speak in Marysville High School's advanced-placement government class before her routine stop at the county office. She said she loves talking to high school and college students.
"It was good to see she took the time to talk to us," said senior Phillip Alvarado, 17. "This is exactly what we need to learn. And it's a really good experience to interact with public figures."
Senior Brian Price, 18, agreed, saying he likes having guest speakers, like Congressman Wally Herger, who spoke to the class a few weeks ago, because it brings real-life perspective to what the students are learning.
"They gives us an opportunity to understand what they are doing as elected officials," Price said.
Bowen became involved in politics after college when she joined a neighborhood watch group, and later worked with a grass-roots environmental organization. In 1992, she was elected to her first of what would be three terms in the Assembly, and she then served two terms in the Senate before she was elected as secretary of state in 2006.
Technology has been a major interest of Bowen's, and when students asked, she named among her proudest accomplishments authoring the world's first law to post legislative information online and the posting of campaign contributions.
She asked how many of the students will be 18 years old by November, and as hands flew up, she said she hopes that by Labor Day, they will be able to register to vote online, thanks to one of her more recent projects.
Teacher Steve White said he was thrilled to have such a prominent elected official in his classroom. He had met Bowen a few times while his students participate at the LegiSchool Project and snared attention through their mock votes.
Her visit Tuesday gives real-life application to class discussions on voting and civic participation, White said.
"I'm just a talking head telling them what something is about," he said. "These people live it. It's good for students to get firsthand knowledge."
Find Ashley Gebb on Facebook at /ADagebb or on Twitter at @ADagebb.
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