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TJHS students question Congressman on politics, healthcare reform
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Turlock Junior High School students line up to ask Congressman Jeff Denham a question during a formal question and answer session at the school. Denham said he was impressed with the level of questions the seventh and eighth graders asked. - photo by JONATHAN MCCORKELL / The Journal

U.S. Congressman Jeff Denham got more than he bargained for during a question and answer session with students from Turlock Junior High School. The local legislator visited the school to promote civic involvement and governmental awareness among the youth who will undoubtedly become voters when they reach legal age.
Dozens of students fired away with prepared questions for the Stanislaus County-based congressman, who was admittedly surprised at the number of sophisticated questions.
"I was really impressed at the questions the kids where asking. They are very aware of what is going on in the country and their questions where well-thought out and the kids were very respectful. There were even some questions about healthcare reform and social security," said Denham.
The Q & A session was broken into two segments: questions from a group of seventh grade gifted and talented students and eighth grade history students.
Before the students asked their questions Denham explained his role representing the 19th Congressional District in Washington, D.C. Then he discussed what his typical day-to-day activities are and his hectic schedule, which often begins before sunrise and ends well into the late hours of the night.
TJHS GATE officers Ellen Davis, Emily Kline and Isaiah Marable said the experience of hosting Denham encouraged them to become civically involved, but not necessarily in politics they joked.
"It was exciting to see him in person and talk to him. It gives him more of a human presence to us," they collectively agreed.
Questions during the exchanges were precise and in-depth. The following is a sampling of those questions:
• "Why are jobs decreasing in the U.S., and what ideas do you have for increasing jobs in California?"
Denham responded that he believes energy independence through domestic sources can alleviate increased wage demands from labor and create profits for business.
• "Why are members of the government exempt from the new health care laws?"
Denham said that it was wrong for Congress to pass an exemption for themselves, but mandate the people they impose the law onto to have a mandate.
One of the lighter moments of the sessions was when a young man asked what was the difference was between republicans and democrats. Denham explained that on local levels there isn't a huge difference but on a larger, national scale the philosophies about taxes and government's role take substantially different tones.
TJHS parent Kathy Halsey teamed up with GATE teachers Denise Nufol and Susan Perry to organize the event with Denham's staff.