Summit County fifth grader goes to Senate |

Summit County fifth grader goes to Senate

Special to the Daily Dillon Valley Elementary fifth grader Sarah Burke is sworn in as an honorary senator by Sen. Jeanne Nicholson as part of the first annual Girls With Goals Day.

Eleven-year-old Sarah Burke has always been a leader, according to her mother, Lori Burke.

“Every time there’s an opportunity to be in any kind of leadership role, she’s always the first one to volunteer,” Burke said.

Sarah was one of 35 girls from around the state chosen to participate in the first annual Girls With Goals Day, which took place March 4 at the Colorado State Capital. The day was held in honor of Women’s History Month. Each senator chose a school in their district, and school principals nominated a girl from their school. The girls were sworn in as youth senators, shadowed their senators, and took place in a mock session featuring bills the girls wrote themselves.

State Sen. Jeanne Nicholson from District 16 – which includes Summit County – chose Dillon Valley Elementary. Principal Gayle Jones-Westerberg picked Sarah for the event.

“They were supposed to chose a fifth-grade girl who could benefit from an experience in the Senate,” Burke said.

“Sarah showed an interest in government and the possibility of making change through the legislative process,” Jones-Westerberg said. “We have numerous girls with goals in fifth grade so this was a tough decision, but Sarah has always followed through with her commitments. We knew she would represent us well.”

Sarah was sworn in by Nicholson as an honorary senator for the day, and got to sit on the podium behind Nicholson as she worked.

“It was really fun,” Sarah said. “We learned that there was a lot of history behind the capitol. I didn’t know what the senate floor was, so I learned about it.”

All of the girls wrote their own bills before the big day, and three were chosen to argue in a mock session. A girl from Durango – who proposed the state should have a Kids in History Week – will have her bill enacted by the Senate. Sarah’s bill – which Nicholson later said was a good idea, and might work with Sarah to make it happen – said laptops should be available to pediatric units in hospitals throughout Colorado so children can Skype with their classmates. Burke said she’s in nursing school, and has told Sarah about how many people use Skype in the hospital to connect with relatives. Sarah thought it would be nice if children could get in touch with their friends.

Sarah, who wants to be a teacher when she grows up, said she’s excited Nicholson wants to talk to her about her bill.

“I think it can help people because if people are miserable in hospitals, and if they have someone to talk to and something to look forward to everyday, it makes them more happy and not as miserable,” Sarah said.

“I was so proud of her,” Burke said. “All of the girls were so involved in the whole process. It’s nice every time she gets to see women in leadership roles, and see that she can be anything she wants to be.”

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