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South Valley Journal

Q&A with the governor

Feb 01, 2018 07:52AM ● By Jet Burnham

Gov. Gary Herbert answered students' questions about over-crowded schools, legalization of medical marijuana and land preservation. (Scott Iddings/Jordan School District)

Some 14-year-olds in Riverton had concerns about the development of the farmland located across the street from their school, so they asked the governor about it.

Gov. Gary Herbert met with AP human geography students at South Hills Middle School for a question-and-answer session on Jan. 3.

“It makes a teacher proud to see students have a proper conversation with the governor,” said AP human geography teacher Joseph Cochran. “I didn’t vet the questions at all. I wanted it to be a personal interaction for them, not a rehearsed interaction.”

About 20 students asked their question directly to the governor. The question about space preservation and what is being done to protect farming lands came from a farming boy. Cochran said when the land development was announced, there was mixed reaction from his students.

“Half of them were thrilled they were getting a mall, and the other half were recognizing they were losing a big part of their community,” he said.

Herbert addressed the issue of space preservation, explaining Utah’s unique situation of having a large percentage of public open space. He said he strives to implement policies based on what is important to the people of Utah. He said that residents participated in an extensive survey a few years ago to share their opinions on some of the same issues students were asking about—overcrowded schools, public transportation and land management. 

Ninth-grader Samantha Crapo said the Q&A with the governor was a good opportunity to ask specific questions about things that affect students’ lives.

 “It was really interesting hearing about things that go on in our state,” she said.

When a student asked what Utahns need to improve, the governor answered that being kind to one another should be a priority. He also emphasized the importance of education, telling students it is the door to opportunities. He believes because of the many opportunities for students in Utah, they can become anything they want to be.

The governor also took some time to share details of his personal journey of how he got to where he is today.

“It made me realize that he was just like us, and now he’s doing great things,” said Samantha. “We have opportunities to do great things.”

Cochran’s college level human geography class motivates students to believe they can make a difference in their world, locally and globally. They discuss topics such as religion, culture and demographics. 

“These kids don’t just understand the world at a minor level, but they get a lot of deeper concepts,” said Cochran. “Some of the questions about urban development they asked—you don’t expect a 14-year-old to ask about that.”

Students learn about things they wish they could change or about things they’d like to see implemented in their community, said Cochran.

“It’s really fascinating for these kids because they learn about it and then they get excited about it,” said Cochran. “It tends to create some passion in them.” 

Through their discussions and study this year, students have developed an interest in helping refugees. Cochran invited a guest speaker to address what is being done locally to help them, and he is also planning a class field trip to tour the LDS Humanitarian Center.

Students find ways to take action with the knowledge they gain. Because the AP test takes place well before the last day of school, the class has a few extra weeks which they use to make a difference in the world that they have been learning about. 

Last year, students used the last three weeks of class to make blankets and tie dye T-shirts to donate to those in need. They also created cards to cheer up patients at Primary Children’s Medical Center. Cochran said it is a good exercise for teens to look outside themselves and give back to their community.