Douglass students participate in interview with U.S. Rep. Hartzler

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 | 6:31 p.m. CDT; updated 8:20 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 17, 2013

COLUMBIA – In a Skype interview with Douglass High School students, U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo, spoke about issues facing the country and fielded questions from students in Terry Alexander's and Eric Bohle's social studies classes.

Alexander said it was a real honor for his students to be able to see their representative face-to-face.

"Today's experience showed them that this is not just someone who you read about in a textbook," Alexander said. "This opportunity showed them that Rep. Hartzler is a real person who makes decisions that impact them directly."

Alexander, a 16-year veteran of the Douglass staff, said this was the first time Douglass had been visited by a member of Congress. The significance of the moment wasn't lost on Hartzler.

"This is the first time I have ever done this type of interview, too," Hartzler said. "As a former teacher, the chance to get to talk to you students – the real people who deal with the laws we write — is so important, especially since you guys are the future."

Hartzler spoke on a variety of issues in her opening statement, ranging from her personal background, her tenure as a state representative in the 1990s, national security, the Boston Marathon bombings and her day-to-day life as a U.S. representative before responding to students' questions.

The students asked written questions about issues that mattered to them, including questions about marijuana legalization, gun control, the national debt and unemployment in Missouri.

Nathan Webb, 16, a sophomore student in Bohle's government class, said the chance to talk to Hartzler was "pretty cool."

Webb said that he always tries to learn one new thing each day at Douglass and that today he learned so much from Hartzler, starting with exactly what she looked like.

Alexander said revelations such as Webb's were exactly what he was looking for from students.

"It is not enough for me to tell them we have 435 U.S. representatives. It is not enough for me to tell them facts about them," Alexander said. "The personal contact we got today will go beyond what they learn in class because this will be something they remember for a long time."

Cameron Sturm, 15, who asked Hartzler why different states are allowed to have different laws regarding marijuana, said talking to Hartzler felt natural.

"When she was up there on the screen, it was just like she was a regular person, and we were just talking," Sturm said.

Alexander and Bohle don't plan to stop after the interview with Hartzler. Alexander said they both plan to bring in officials such as Mayor Bob McDavid, U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill and several elected state and regional officials.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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