Students at Willamette High School are leading the way to government policy changes. by Pat Farr

Sunday, February 3rd, 2019

Willamette High School seniors Nate and Harrison met with me in my office on February 3 2019 to plan strategies for implementing their ideas about shelter and housing

Willamette High School social studies teacher Leslie Simmons each school year has students complete a public policy project.  Together she and fellow teacher Steve Miller help them prepare a two-day Public Policy Forum.

The students select a policy they believe needs to be addressed. It can be anything from filling potholes to school funding to immigration. The student do the research and determine a pathway for moving their policy through local, state, or federal law.

Then they prepare a report and display.  Policy makers and educators participate in interviewing students and scoring these projects.

In January this year I participated for the third time.  I met groups of students from three classes over the course of the days on January 23 and 24 in the WilHi media center.  It is among the most enjoyable things I have done as an elected official.

Each year I have been amazed at the choices of policy changes–or laws–that they bring to the forum.  This year the preparation through research, report-writing and display presentation reached a new high.  The students were in groups of two to four and gave convincing arguments that would deliver results through formal city, county or state policy processes.

I personally attended 22 presentations by these remarkable high school seniors. Among the reports I reviewed and evaluated were:

  • Sex Trafficking–not in my state!
  • Delta Highway-Beltline Road interchange improvements
  • Childhood Obesity
  • Distracted Driving and Texting
  • Teen Homelessness
  • Bully Prevention
  • Fighting Hunger and Malnutrition
  • Homeless Shelter on Public Property
  • Protecting Pollenators


Several of the student teams will meet with me and others to plan strategies for implementation and expansion of their ideas.

Students receive this clear advise: “It is essential that students are in class while we prepare for the Policy Project. Failure to attend can devastate your grade!”  But my experience is that these high school seniors are participating for far more than just a good grade in a class…


To see the detailed assignment given to the students, including selection and preparation checklists,  visit this site:  Mrs. Simmons and Mr. Miller’s page