Teen interns in district keep Rankin in touch | PostIndependent.com

Teen interns in district keep Rankin in touch

Will Grandbois
wgrandbois@postindependent.com
Rifle High School senior Tressa Leba visits with State Representative Bob Rankin as part of Colorado Close-Up last weekend.
Courtesy photo |

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Students or teachers who want to participate in the “interns in the field” program can contact Bob Rankin’s office, 303-866-2949.

State Rep. Bob Rankin has found a novel way to keep in touch with his constituents.

While many state legislators uses interns from the Denver area, Rankin is the only one using high schoolers from his own district to keep him informed.

Overseen by Joyce Rankin, wife and aid to the representative, the “interns in the field” program debuted last year for a trial run. Currently, three students from around the county are participating: Tressa Leyba in Rifle, Vanessa Davila in Glenwood and Fiona Laird in Carbondale.

Each student keeps track of local news, politics and public opinion, and files a weekly report.

Although they’re required to have a teacher sponsor, the work is largely self-directed and on their own time.

It takes the right type of student to meet the high bar set by the Rankins, but while the girls are busy with other activities, they’ve consistently met and exceeded expectations.

“The reports I’m getting this year are just out of the ballpark,” Joyce Rankin said.

Leyba participated in the pilot program last year as a junior, and although she’s busy cheerleading, performing in the school musical and serving as student body president, she was eager to return to it.

“I never thought I would read the newspaper as much as I do now. I didn’t get to know much about my community until I entered the field program,” she said. “I am very involved in politics. I don’t know where it came from, but I love history. It’s my favorite class.”

Leyba has a particular passion for education, and hopes to be a kindergarten teacher. Her coverage of the school board has given her some extra insight into the educational process, as well as being of interest to Rep. Rankin, who is a Republican from Carbondale.

“He is very involved in what’s going on in schools,” she said.

Last week, Leyba took advantage of the Colorado Close-Up social studies program to get a closer look at state politics, travelling to the Capitol and having breakfast with the Rankins.

“So many people work in the Capitol, and they work extremely hard trying to make Colorado a great state,” she said.

‘EVERYTHING I WANT TO BE’

Davila, who also participates in DECA, mock trial, basketball, Key Club and Travel Club at Glenwood High, will make the trip to Denver later in the month.

A junior, she’s new to the program, but it’s a perfect fit for someone contemplating law school.

“It’s everything I want to be when I’m older,” she said.

It’s still a lot of work.

“He makes us write more than I write in lit class, and my writing is getting better. Anything I would have to report on I feel like I could.”

So far, Davila has tackled special taxes, teacher housing and the Grand Avenue bridge. While others may find such issues confusing or dull, she finds them fascinating.

“It only furthers my desire to get involved,” she said.

In fact, she thinks more locals ought to be paying attention to City Council, the county commissioners and the school board.

“I think people would be surprised at how much is going on. A lot of people don’t get into the issues because they don’t realize that they can,” she said. If a citizen is concerned about something, they need to take the initiative and get involved.”

That’s exactly the attitude Wayne Smith, Davila’s teacher sponsor, is trying to project in his classes.

“It went hand in hand with our mission to get students more engaged in what’s happening in the community. I’m always looking for ways to make kids’ interactions with government more meaningful,” he said. “I don’t know how you could ever replicate this in the classroom.”

Joyce Rankin hopes that the program will continue to expand. Other legislators have talked about emulating it, and there are still several schools in the House district — which includes Garfield, Rio Blanco, and Moffat counties — without an intern.

“The representatives are just so busy. It’s hard for them to keep up with their constituents,” Joyce Rankin said. “Representative Rankin realizes who put him in office, and he wants to make sure their voice is heard.”


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