State rep. Kivela talks issues with students

By Adelle Whitefoot

MARQUETTE – Students at Marquette Alternative High School had a chance to ask state Rep. John Kivela, D-Marquette, the tough questions about current issues and the they didn’t hold back.

Kivela addressed his job and what he does down in Lansing. He then spent the balance of the hour taking questions from students. The students asked questions ranging from gay marriage to the wolf hunt to the safety of the Eagle Mine.

“I’ve done a lot of these and the kids here came up with some really great questions about a lot of controversial issues, and I’m glad they are thinking about them,” Kivela said. “They’re tomorrow’s leaders.”

Kivela said he participates in these type of visits to schools because he thinks it’s important to share about what’s going on in Lansin, giving students an idea of what government is and how the student can affect it.

He also noted these type of events are fun for him.

“I like interacting with them. I really like kids and I always have,” Kivela said. “Sometimes you leave some stuffy meetings or some technical, complicated issues and it’s just fun to get in front of a group of kids who are interested and willing to listen.”

The tough questions didn’t come as a surprise, he said, because one of his staffers had told him to be prepared to answer anything, which he thought was great.

“Kids need to be thinking about these things because they aren’t little kids anymore, these are young adults and I was glad I was able to talk about the meth epidemic,” Kivela said. “They really need to understand the dangers of that. So I was glad it came up. But for me these type of questions are easy to answer because I just tell it like it is.”

And Kivela wasn’t lying when he said that he tells the truth because when a student asked him where he thought cursive writing was going while they were on the subject of the Michigan Merit requirements, Kivela’s response was “it’s going away.”

Amanda Erspamer-Berry, social studies and special education teacher, was the one who asked Kivela to speak to the school. In September she brought State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, to speak to the students.

“I think Kivela’s speech was great and he really connects with the student and gives his honest opinion, which I think is what (the students) appreciate the most,” Erspamer-Berry said. “He does have a similar background to a lot of our students, but not all of them, so it’s pretty awesome to see him connect to with all of the students. That can be difficult, I know.”

Erspamer-Berry said she hopes the students come away inspired by hearing Kivela’s story of starting as a mechanic to becoming a state representative.