tampabay.com

Students' bill makes it through Capitol

By JANET ZINK
Published April 28, 2007


TALLAHASSEE - Plant City High School freshman Aaron Sykes wants to be president of the United States.

Hannah Volz, a Sickles High School student, dreams of election to the U.S. Senate.

Samantha Jennings, a Jefferson High School senior, hopes to represent the United States in the United Nations.

All three experienced their first political success Friday when Florida lawmakers passed their bill. It's legislation they helped craft through the third annual "Ought to Be a Law" student bill drafting competition, created by Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Lutz.

It's the first time student legislation developed through the program has come so close to becoming state law.

Gov. Charlie Crist plans to come to Tampa to sign the bill into law.

"They still have to lobby to get it signed, " Ambler said.

Called the High School to Business Career Enhancement Act, the bill creates a statewide internship program for high school students. Businesses would register with the county school board. Then students could apply for the jobs.

"It gives them a hands-on experience that will propel them further in their course of study, " said Tomas Gacio, a freshman at Bloomingdale High School who said "God willing, I can run for president."

The students who won the competition work on passage of their bill, presenting it to lawmakers in committee meetings and lobbying for support during the legislative session.

"Making appointments was crazy, " Jennings said.

"We learned a lot, " said Jennifer Madden, a freshman at Gaither High School.

"It's all about relationships, " Volz said.

Ambler's program allows students to compete to come up with the best bill, which is chosen in a series of town hall meetings. Winners from each school work as a team to shepherd the proposal through Tallahassee.

On Friday, they watched while state representatives and senators passed their bill.

But Jonathon Pratt, a senior in the Hillsborough High School International Baccalaureate program who dreamed up the Career Enhancement Act, couldn't make it.

He was home, studying for exams.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or 813 226-3401.