Congressman Paul Tonko talks government with RCS seniors

Paul Tonko speaking to government class

For students in the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk High School AP government class, reading about current events is one thing; hearing firsthand about policy-making decisions from a sitting U.S. congressman is quite another.

On March 7, Congressman Paul Tonko kicked it up a notch for about 20 students enrolled in the AP course by visiting their classroom and answering some tough questions.

“We are trying to get a good understanding for how our government works,” said Jacob Jimenez, a senior in the AP course. “Congressman Tonko is in it – he’s in what we study. ”

Tonko began the discussion by describing his background as a college engineering student and his eventual progression into politics.

When Tonko opened the floor for dialogue, students asked pointed questions on his stance on fracking – the practice of extracting fuel from rock by injecting a high-pressure water mixture – and his thoughts on the United States’ position as a leader in the use of fossil fuels.

“I’m impressed. You certainly ask great questions,” Tonko said as the bell rang, ending class. “Please reach out and send me more of your questions, thoughts and ideas. I would also love to hear about your dreams and goals.”

A handful of students, including Jimenes stayed after class for one-on-one conversations with Tonko. “It was a great learning experience, I’m glad that he got to come and speak to us,” said Jimenez, who plans to study political science in college.

High School Principal Tom DiAcetis thanked the congressman for taking time to visit with RCS students.

“It is important for them to be able to interact with such influential members of their community such as Congressman Tonko,” DiAcetis said. “This class is a great representation of the caring, informed and inspiring students we have here at RCS.”