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Students during Feburary lobbying effort in Albany.  (Photo: Carol Pynchon)
Students during Feburary lobbying effort in Albany. (Photo: Carol Pynchon)

Canton students reflect on advocacy effort, as they prepare to graduate

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High school seniors are getting ready to graduate. For students in the A-P Government class at Canton Central, it's been a year of learning firsthand how government works. They got riled up when they learned that their school might need to eliminate things like sports and theatre, as well as jobs because of decisions in the state budget. So, they took action.

Along with a few hundred parents and school officials, they took a bus trip to Albany in February to lobby lawmakers. In the end, the state restored some money to Canton Central and other rural schools. However, the district still plans to cut programs, and more than 24 jobs.

Now that it's graduation time, the seniors have had a few months to reflect on their lobbying effort. We spoke with Susannah Sudborough and Pat McGaw who were both touched by the experience but came away with opposite conclusions about what it will mean for their own futures.

Our story was produced by Julie Grant and Natasha Haverty.

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Julie Grant
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Canton Central seniors Susannah Sudborough and Pat McGaw were part of the  group that travelled to Albany in February to lobby lawmakers in an effort to prevent certain Canton Central School programs from being cut.

Sudborough will be attending Emerson College next fall where she will major in theater and possible political science, and McGaw plans to attend Rochester Institute of Technology for mechanical engineering.

“I do not want to go into politics at all in the future. I was actually thinking about it and not at all. But it’s nice to see how the government actually works,” said McGaw. While he has come to the realization that he has no interest in pursuing government classes post graduation, Sudborough has a different perspective and said, “I do really care about how things are in the world, and I want to change them for the better, and this has actually given me the feeling that I can.”

The student lobbyists were able to get money intended for competitive grants to go to need-based funds. “I don’t think that it was realistic to think that we were ever going to get exactly what we wanted, but we definitely did make a difference,” said Sudborough. “It was kind of a non-permanent bandage to help get through the times and that’s better than nothing.”

McGaw agreed that getting the $250,000 put back into the budget was a good start but said, “It was more effective than I thought it was going to be, but it still wasn’t good enough for our school as we have to make 20-some cuts next year.”

“I learned that we are not powerless, despite the feeling that I’ve had for pretty much my whole life that I have no say in what goes on in the world, that all these bigger people are in control, that it’s worth it to try,” said Sudborough.

According to McGaw, between 300 and 400 individuals made the trip to Albany but were not helped and were ignored by the governor. McGaw described the atmosphere as “mean,” and uncomfortable.

“At least it was proof that we did do something,” said Sudborough. “Unfortunately they haven’t changed what’s making the biggest problem, which is the formula. Hopefully, in years to come, they will, especially if we keep pushing.

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