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Riley addresses CHHS seniors

Budgeting, proration and legislation are words most high school students probably have little interest in.

But after an interactive session with Gov. Bob Riley Monday morning, that’s no longer the case for many of Charles Henderson High School’s seniors.

Thanks to the local ACCESS program (Alabama Connecting Classrooms, Educators and Students Statewide), CHHS students were part of only nine other schools in the state to hear Riley preview his State of the State address right from their computer lab.

“He started off reassuring students he and Dr. Morton and lawmakers were going to do everything they can to minimize the affect of proration on the classroom,” said CHHS Principal David Helms.

And from there, Helms said Riley addressed issues of student concern, ranging from proration to alternative energy sources to the proposed national economic stimulus plan.

Amelia Berry, a senior at CHHS, was the one to pose a question to Riley on behalf of the other 23 seniors gathered from her school.

“She asked Riley how seniors who want to attend college will be affected by proration,” Helms said. “And he assured her everyone would be able to afford through student loans, grants and scholarships they would have a way to do it.”

Berry said before she agreed to ask the question, she knew little of local government.

“I never knew anything about the governor or his policies until I was asked to do this,” Berry said. “It opened up a whole new knowledge of it.”

And now, Berry said she will continue to follow the legislature, especially when Riley makes his State of the State address Tuesday night.

“I definitely want to watch it because I want to see how he answers other questions,” Berry said.

Berry wasn’t the only one to gain from the ACCESS experience.

“I enjoyed it. It’s something only a certain amount of schools were chosen to do,” Henderson said.

Henderson said before Monday, she had little understanding of government aside from class.

“I take government and economics, but other than that, I haven’t really though more about it than today,” Henderson said. “I think (other students) enjoyed it. I think people paid more attention than in class since it was straight out of the governor’s mouth and that would make a difference to some people.”

Helms said he isn’t sure exactly how CHHS was chosen to be a part, but he is glad he did.

“I think our kids came away feeling like they had a personal part in this,” Helms said. “The kids really felt in tuned to the governor because of this interactive session.”