BOSTON – Burlington elementary school students typically learn about the state legislative process in the classroom or on occasional field trips to the State House on Beacon Hill. This month, at the request of Rep. Ken Gordon, the State House will be taking a field trip to Burlington. On October 13, 2015, the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight will travel to Francis Wyman Elementary School auditorium for a public hearing at 10 a.m. to hear a bill inspired by HELPIS and Burlington school children that seeks to name May the Month of Kindness.
The Joint Committee will convene at the Burlington school so that the students who presented this bill earlier in the session can testify before the committee, explaining why they think it is important to remind everyone to be kind during the month of May. “I am thrilled the Committee Co-Chairs, Peter Kocot (D-North Hampton) and Sen. Joan Lovely (D-Salem), agreed to move this hearing to Burlington, so that the young students can continue to learn about our democratic process with the hands-on experience of filing a bill, testifying on its behalf, and following it as it makes its way to what we hope will become law,” said Gordon, who is a member of the Joint Committee himself.
The bill was co-sponsored by Sen. Ken Donnelly (D-Arlington), who spoke to the children who helped file the bill at the State House in January.
Many of the children advocating on behalf of the bill are from families that were victims of the Lord Baron Apartments fire two years ago. They received assistance from community groups such as People Helping People, the Rotary Club, the interfaith clergy, town meeting member Joanne Frustaci, and HELPIS, a Burlington non-profit organized by Joyce Deliyiannis, which is dedicated to the principle of “paying it forward.” HELPIS provides assistance to people in need, in exchange for their promise to assist others in the future, when they are in a position to do so.
Those living at the Lord Baron Apartments benefited from donations of clothing, toys, furniture, and other items from HELPIS and the other organizations. With Deliyiannis, the children approached Rep. Gordon and asked him to champion the project, designed to empower them and remind residents to show kindness to each other.
“We were so excited to be a part of the government, a part of the process that will hopefully make new law,” said Deliyiannis. “Just two years ago, many of these children felt they had no hope, that people forgotten about them. But they have become inspired. By this law, and the work we have done together, they know they have a voice. It is because of the important work we have done that people in this state will be reminded every May to be kind to each other all year.”
The school is planning to discuss civics and civic engagement at an assembly before the hearing. The Joint Committee, consisting of ten Representatives and six Senators, will take testimony then confer in executive session once the hearing is closed. If approved, the bill will be assigned to the full House and Senate, and if they vote in favor of the measure, it will move to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
“We are honored here at Francis Wyman Elementary School to be included in this upcoming historic hearing. The staff and students are excited to see first-hand the process of getting a bill passed that will declare May the official month of kindness,” said Nicole McDonald, Principal of Francis Wyman Elementary. “We are proud of the families and their students who helped to initiate this bill at the State House last spring.”
“Once you do a good deed yourself, people follow you and they do it too,” said Eric Sekyaya, 9.
“It’s about showing other people you care, and then they can show that caring to other people as well,” said Abigail Nansubuga, 14.
As Deliyiannis says, “When people know they are cared for, they are empowered to move forward.” And according to Rep. Gordon, “Once people make a conscious effort to show kindness during that one month, it will spread throughout the year.”
In honor of this event, Rep Gordon and HELPIS encourage members of the public to donate nonperishable food items to People Helping People.