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‘Politics is all around us’: Lt. Gov. Denny Heck visits Columbia River High School to speak with students about civics, political ethics

Students ask about education and climate change

By Dylan Jefferies, Columbian staff writer
Published: May 28, 2024, 6:15pm
4 Photos
Washington Lt. Gov. Denny Heck, left, talks to a room of Columbia River High School students Tuesday at the school. Heck graduated from Columbia River in 1970.
Washington Lt. Gov. Denny Heck, left, talks to a room of Columbia River High School students Tuesday at the school. Heck graduated from Columbia River in 1970. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Lt. Gov. Denny Heck visited Columbia River High School on Tuesday afternoon to speak with students about civics and political ethics.

“I’m always a little bit overcome by emotion whenever I revisit my old high school,” said Heck, who graduated from Columbia River in 1970. “Granted, it’s been a year or two.”

Heck was invited to speak by Columbia River student Abbie Pacuska, 17, who hosted the event.

Pacuska is a junior in the International Baccalaureate Program, a worldwide college and career prep program designed to help students develop critical thinking and research skills.

The event was a part of Pacuska’s service project, a diploma requirement. Service projects must be beneficial for the community and provide a learning opportunity for students.

“My goal for this project was, with the upcoming election, to inspire people to vote and cast their vote for what they truly believe in, and to not have this mentality that your vote doesn’t matter, because it does,” Pacuska said. “Every vote counts.”

Heck outlined his role as lieutenant governor before taking questions from the large student audience.

Some students asked about the importance of voting and getting involved in politics.

“Politics is all around us,” Heck said. “Everybody doesn’t have to run for office or get actively involved in politics, but this is the space we occupy.”

Others asked about climate change, education and civic duty.

“If you’re young and you have things you care about and if you work hard, you can make a difference,” he said.

Pacuska said she hopes the event inspired her peers to have more discussions about politics.

“There is a stigma around political discussion, which in turn creates a lack of understanding for where politics are right now,” she said. “As we come closer to entering the adult world, navigating the complexities of our governmental system becomes increasingly more important. Decisions we make as voters will shape the future of our communities and our nation. It’s essential for us to understand the ethical considerations that underpin our political processes. And who better to give us an explanation than the lieutenant governor himself?”

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