Published Online: April 3, 2002
Published in Print: April 3, 2002, as State Journal

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Teaching Tool

Sixteen-year-old Matthew A. North put a serious idea on the road to success, and now it faces a serious roadblock.

Mr. North, now a junior at Heritage High School in Saginaw County, Mich., came up with the idea of a Children's Memorial Day for his state about five years ago, when he lost his best friend to leukemia. Since then, he has seen his proposed day of remembrance embodied in legislation and, late last year, passed the Michigan House.

But now the bill has stalled in a Senate committee, to the frustration of fellow students. Mr. North's cause has been taken up by the Political Awareness Committee at his school, where six students have died in automobile accidents over the past two years, according to Randy Kreger, the teacher who advises the group.

Together, the teenagers have collected more than 1,200 signatures on a petition aimed at getting Senate leaders to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. They also called a press conference to drum up support statewide.

The bill appears caught in a political morass, with Republican Gov. John Engler reportedly opposed to creating any special days, and GOP leaders in the legislature thus loath to get involved. Republican leaders directed the bill to the Senate appropriations committee, a move that puzzled supporters because the measure does not call for spending any state money. Indeed, the legislation mandates no particular observance.

"I've learned that it seems easy to have a bill passed, but it's really not that easy," Mr. North said.

The students' campaign has been "one of the best teaching tools I've ever stumbled upon," Mr. Kreger said. He added that he was proud of his students for finding a constructive way to deal with tragic losses.

Rep. A.T. Frank, a Democrat who sponsored the bill, wants the Senate to vote on it. "Matt and many kids at the high school are certainly getting a great lesson,'' he said. "I just hope it's in the process of government and not just in politics."

—Bess Keller

Vol. 21, Issue 29, Page 27

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