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Students Visit Beacon Hill to Lobby for Climate Bills

Students Visit Beacon Hill to Lobby for Climate Bills

By Wilson Cheung ’24 and Kitty Zhang ’24

One day earlier this semester, 17 NMH students began their day at 7:30 am, as they boarded a bus heading for the Massachusetts State House in Boston for a day of lobbying hosted by the Massachusetts Youth Climate Coalition (MYCC). Alongside 180 other passionate students, teachers, and climate advocates from across the state, the NMH students, which included Ecoleaders, engaged in 51 meetings with Massachusetts legislators, focusing on lobbying for five bills: 

NMH students and leaders pose outside of the Massachusetts State House

A week prior to the event, MYCC offered training sessions to prepare all participants, detailing the bills and emphasizing effective presentation to legislators. Each student was assigned to different legislator meeting groups, assuming roles such as facilitator, presenter, storyteller, question maker, legislator wrangler, note-taker, and timekeeper, ensuring efficient communication and coordination during meetings. Additionally, each student researched the legislators they were assigned to meet, identifying if they had written or cosponsored bills related to climate change and/or equity. This enabled them to select the most crucial bills to advocate for, maximizing their impact during the limited time available. 

Upon the NMH students’ arrival at the Old West Church, they dispersed into individual legislator meeting groups to prepare and strategize. Following a quick pizza lunch, the participants marched from Old West Church to the State House, chanting ("One, we are the people; two, we love each each other; three, we will not let you WRECK OUR PLANET!")  and holding signs to share their voices and raise awareness on combating climate change. At the State House, a few advocates delivered short speeches on the bills to energize the atmosphere before proceeding through security for meetings with legislators. 

Kitty Zhang ’24 attended meetings with state Rep. Edward R. “Ted” Philips, a Democrat from the 8th Norfolk District, and with Jared Freedman, the chief of staff to Sen. Joanne M. Comerford, a Democrat whose Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester District includes the NMH campus. Zhang was surprised by the supportive and accommodating nature of both meetings. The legislators treated each student with patience, earnestly listening to their requests and expressing support for the bills advocated. 

students in the state house

Another NMH student, Wilson Cheung ’24, met with Sen. Tommy Vitolo, a Democrat who represents the 15th Norfolk District. Cheung described Vitolo as a chatty person who shared insights into policy-making, ranging from the importance of community engagement to the establishment of clear policy priority. Cheung, who was also the facilitator of the meeting with Freedman, said that both meetings went more smoothly than he had expected. He sent a follow-up email to Freedmen after the lobby day and was told that Comerford cosponsored the gas moratorium bill and the climate education bill. For Cheung and Zhang, their meeting was a success. 

However, some of the students had contrasting experiences, with legislators appearing indifferent or dismissive. One peer noted the challenge of advocating for the climate education bill when basic access to education remains a concern. These diverse perspectives highlighted the complexities of politics and the importance of considering broader issues beyond climate change when advocating for rights. 

The day concluded at 4 pm as tired but still excited NMH students enjoyed doughnuts provided by their supportive teachers, Pete Sniffen and Tim Relyea, as they boarded the bus. This memorable experience left everyone with a smile as they drifted to sleep on the two-hour ride back to NMH.

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