Congressman Hilleary's wife speaks to local students

By Megan R. Harrell
Star Staff

All of the gubernatorial candidates have emphasized a need for better education in Tennessee. Yesterday, one of the candidate's wives took the first step in reaching children with education. Congressman Van Hilleary's wife, Meredith was at Happy Valley Middle School to talk to students about the importance of taking education seriously.
   Meredith Hilleary is a second grade teacher in Tennessee and knows all too well the educational problems that face the state. She spoke to an eighth-grade English class at Happy Valley Middle School on why she decided to become a teacher. Hilleary stated that she tried to correlate her visit with the career day students had recently attended in Johnson City and how she decided to become a teacher.
   Hilleary wanted the students to realize the opportunities that are ahead of them when equipped with a quality education. "I tried to promote education and talked about all of the opportunities and choices that they have that a lot of students their ages in other countries around the world do not have," Hilleary said.
   Students heard about children in Afghanistan who received a suppressed education. Hilleary also talked about students in communist countries that are put on career paths by the government and have little choices of their own. "In our country students can do anything they want to if they can put their minds to it," Hilleary said.
   Hilleary also found time to talk to the students about why her husband is interested in running for governor of Tennessee. She highlighted his intentions to reform the education system at the state level, and allowed the students to ask questions about the political process and current events affecting the state.
   The income tax debate in Nashville was a topic of choice for the students and Hilleary was able to explain why it is hard for legislatures to decide on a bill. Hilleary led the students in an application of the income tax dilemma and allowed them to actively participate to better understand how the issue affects themselves and their parents. "I put figures on the board and percentages and explained both sides of the issue," Hilleary said.
   After Hilleary explained the income tax debate the students held a class vote. Only two students raised their hands in favor of the income tax, and Hilleary stated that they had legitimate ideas of what they would want to use the money for. The majority of the students voted against an income tax, which is indicative of how most of their parents will vote. Hilleary believes the exercise allowed the students to see for themselves the gray areas that arise in politics.
   Although Hilleary did touch on politics when speaking to the students she maintained that her basic message was to persuade students to go after as many opportunities as able while in school, such as job shadowing, and government interns. She encouraged students to receive a broad education.
   Hilleary spoke to the Republican Women in Bristol last night after her visit at Happy Valley Middle School. While in East Tennessee, Hilleary visited the Hands On Museum in Johnson City and attended the races at the Bristol Motor Speedway.