PLATTSBURGH — Though he's still in high school, Dan Frederick already has a strong interest in politics and public policy.
That's why he was honored Saturday to be part of the first League of Women Voters Education Forum between area high-school students and state representatives.
"It's interesting and should be a great opportunity," the Beekmantown High School junior said Saturday morning during the three-hour event at Plattsburgh High School.
Frederick was one of two dozen students from Clinton and Essex counties who were selected to serve as representatives at the forum.
Desire to help
Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) and Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru) each spoke at length to the students about their experiences in Albany and how their elected service has shaped their lives.
The biggest message Duprey hoped to send was that most politicians are regular, family-oriented citizens who were thrust into the government spotlight by a desire to help others.
"I believe the vast majority of us are hardworking and decent folks. We have integrity as elected officials and we work very, very hard," she told the students and their parents, noting that compassion and sincerity are essential personality traits for the job.
While fielding student questions, Duprey discussed the advantages, disadvantages and challenges of public office and also took time to address her many accomplishments.
But, she said, "the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages" and the need to be fully informed about all issues is one of the main ongoing challenges for all representatives.
Both she and Little agreed that family support is also a key component of public service, saying their loved ones have helped them through the many elections and years of service, despite the toll of media pressure and the potential negative backlash.
"The support of our family is very important," said Little, who said she braved a long snowy drive from Glens Falls to attend the forum.
"Their support is absolutely critical," said Duprey, commending her family for their continued support.
Little also discussed the importance of voting and said the North Country is "fortunate up here that people are involved in politics."
Both delved into some of the major issues they hope to tackle in Albany, including property taxes and reducing government.
Chazy Rural Central High School juniors Olivia Seymour and Abby LaDue both took a strong interest in the event, especially since they serve as Student Council president and vice president, respectively.
"I think it's really cool to meet the senator," Seymour said.
LaDue felt that "it's a great opportunity and it feels good to have been chosen (to attend)."
Not only was LaDue selected as one of two representatives from her school, but she was also chosen Saturday morning to serve as the North Country delegate to the annual Students Inside Albany conference this spring.
In the past, the League of Women Voters selected a student to attend but decided to host the educational forum this year to provide valuable experiences to more students and then select a student delegate through a lottery system.
The alternates selected were Sean Holmes from Northeastern Clinton Central School and Mallory Suddoth from Wesport Central School.
Betty Ann King, who co-chaired the event, said the League of Women Voters sponsors delegates to the Albany conference each year to help give those selected a real-world insight into state government and decided to host a forum to "bring Albany to more students."
She said 13 out of 16 schools in Essex and Clinton counties participated in Saturday's forum.
With its marked success, King said officials are now "hoping to make it an annual event."
E-mail Andrea VanValkenburg at: firstname.lastname@example.org