February 10, 2002 11:00 pm

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Many La Grande High students are discovering their political voices this school year.

The reason: it is now easier for students to practice the art of politics at LHS.

The creation of a student senate at LHS is allowing more students to take part in the political process. Previously about 30 students were involved in student government but the creation of the senate means that 70 students are now involved.

The senate has already made a lasting impact. In the fall it had an influential role in putting a Pledge of Allegiance program in place. Students now recite the Pledge of Allegiance together twice a week. This is the first time in at least 20 years that students have said the Pledge of Allegiance at LHS.

The pledge program was started by LHS senior Angel Cripps. The senior presented a proposal to the senate, which it accepted. While it would have been possible for someone to get such a program started through student government prior to the 2001-2002 school year, it would have been more difficult, LHS Principal Doug Potter said.

Someone presenting the idea would have met with four or five students who would have rejected or approved it. Now someone with a proposal gets to talk before more than 50 students representing the entire school.

The senate is doing things such as determining how the commons should be redecorated and investigating the possibility of creating a student lounge. The senate is also taking an active role in organizing spirit weeks and assemblies.

It is easy for all students to express their options to senators since a senator is elected from each of LHSs 38 home rooms. In addition, the president of each LHS club is appointed to the senate.

The senators report back regularly to their home rooms and clubs about what is happening in student government.

Students now feel that they have more of a voice in school, said LHS teacher Andrea Waldrop, the schools activities director.

Waldrop and Potter are responsible for creating the LHS senate, part of an effort to create more activities for students outside athletics.

We want an activity program that involves a lot of students and gets them excited about school, Potter said.

He wants students involved in organized activities that help the school and community. Potter created the position of activities director at LHS as part of this effort.

He has been pleased with how the student senate is operating. Potter credits student body president Austin Zander with doing an exceptional job of leading the senate.

Waldrop noted that the creation of the senate has made those in student government feel that much closer to the students they are working for.

They have gotten used to the idea of representing students, Waldrop said.

Because more people are involved in student government, more are aware of what is going on and the reasons why things are being done. The trade-off is that sometimes it takes longer to do things. It is, however, a small price to pay.

It is more time-consuming but it is worth it. We dont have as many complaints now, Zander said.