Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 22, 2018

Our time to make a difference

Southeast Iowa students bring passion, tough topics to the statehouse
By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News | Feb 27, 2018
Photo by: Karyn Spory/GTNS photo Rep. Dave Heaton (R-Mt. Pleasant) listens to several members of M Power U, including Mt. Pleasant student, Sadie Carrasco, second from the left, during a legislative reception at the Embassy Suites Atrium during Southeast Iowa Days at the capitol.

DES MOINES — It may have been a long day for Mt. Pleasant students, Sadie Carrasco and Callie DePriest, but instead of looking tired, they looked energized after a day in Iowa’s capitol.

Carrasco and DePriest attended Southeast Iowa Days at the capitol as part of the MPOWER U student group on Feb. 21-22.

“It’s been a really great experience,” said DePriest of the program. “I wasn’t sure what to expect from it.”

MPOWER U is a college-level class in leadership that offers high school juniors and seniors opportunities to experience leadership in action within the communities in the Great River Region of Southeast Iowa, according to the program’s website.

Carrasco first became aware of the program when the high school’s vice principal approached her about it. “He said he knew what kind of person I am and my work ethic and thought I would be great for this,” she explained.

The MPOWER U class consists of two students each from all participating high schools in Des Moines, Henry, Lee, and Louisa counties. Participants are selected by their respective faculty and guidance counselors.

Students first met this past fall and began brainstorming topics they would bring to the capitol to discuss with legislators. This year, students presented projects on generational poverty, mental health and gun control.

“It was a tough decision,” Carrasco said of choosing a topic to research and present on. “They’re all so closely linked to each other that one affects the other.”

“I thought mental health would be best suited for me because I know more about that and I thought it just really spoke to me.”

When Carrasco and her peers walked across the stage in the Wallace Building, their uniform — white button down shirts and black pants — had a little something extra. Each student wore a different colored ribbon to promote a different aspect of mental health. Carrasco wore a royal blue ribbon to raise awareness of depression; a topic very close to her heart, she told the audience, because she had a friend who suffered with depression for a long time before ending her life because of it.

“It was a little nerve-racking, but I thought it was amazing,” Carrasco said of presenting their research to the audience. “Once we got up there I was like, ‘wow, it’s our time to make a difference.”

Carrasco’s group, wanted more access points for adolescents, standardizing mental health warning sign education among school educators and a “no eject, no reject” policy between hospitals for mental health patients.

DePriest and her group attempted to tackle the topic of generational poverty. “There was something I was drawn to (with generational poverty),” said DePriest.

DePriest and her group did a great deal of research through Bridges Out of Poverty, a Burlington based initiative that works to unite the community to help bring resources to friends and neighbors struggling with poverty.

At the end of the day, students attended a reception where Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg spoke and were then able to meet and mingle with legislators.

“I think I’ve developed a newfound respect for our (legislators) and everyone working to make these decisions,” she said.

Carrasco said just speaking with legislators and sitting in on different events at the capitol she’s learned how representatives take the time to look at issues from different angles and she believes truly try to make the best decision for their constituants.

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