St. Vrain Valley School District debuts Student Senate

Over time, so much more than the original wallpaper and single pane skylights has changed at the State Capitol in Denver.

Old photos show dusty cowboys working on the Senate and House floors with their hats on their desks because state government then functioned under one roof and operations staff worked in the private wing offices occupied today by legislators.

Yet, such archival images convey a strong sense of Everyman government — something Brandon Shaffer, a local lawyer and former Colorado lawmaker, hopes to boost through a districtwide Student Senate for high school students unveiled last month.

The open invitation extracurricular club launched Oct. 27 at the district office, 395 S. Pratt Parkway in Longmont, with nine students representing multiple high schools.

"As a kid, I was on student council and involved in Youth in Government. And there's classroom learning about civics. But there's not a textbook on how to successfully engage and be heard in the public process or how to run for office," Shaffer said after the nearly 90-minute meeting.

"... This is new. There's no script. No template for what we will be doing here," he continued.

No template other than meeting twice monthly versus monthly once the Colorado Legislature convenes on Jan. 11 so students can mock debate current proposals on the floor at the State Capitol in the school district's boardroom.

"That is the meaty part of this club, what makes it so relevant," Shaffer said.

Before the Legislature adjourns this spring, Shaffer and the Student Senate will visit the Capitol to observe lawmaking first hand and, possibly, to testify on bills discussed then.

School Board member John Ahrens sat in on the club meeting and encouraged student participation.

"You will know more than what most know (about the state's legislative process)," he said. "A vote is a great show of power. But a voice is where you can make the most change. ...Grassroots efforts like these are really what makes change."

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