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Congressman drops knowledge at school

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Lancaster, CA, August 21, 2018 | comments

Antelope Valley Press: August 21, 2018

By: Julie Drake

LANCASTER - Congressman Steve Knight stopped by Fulton & Alsbury Academy of Arts and Engineering Monday afternoon to talk politics with student Valerie Padilla.

The congressman and the seventh grader met in Principal Andrew Glatfelter's office. They had pepperoni pizza and sodas in the conference room. (Knight had a Diet Coke; Valerie had a Sprite.)

Valerie explained she wanted to get into politics to help people, students in particular. She wanted to make sure more students had access to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, curriculum, and more hands-on activities.

Knight said it sounded like Valerie wanted there to be more schools like Fulton & Alsbury Academy.

"That's probably where you're going - is make sure that every kid gets that high level of education so they can do whatever they want," Knight said. "That's an admirable goal. It's a good one; it's a hard one. But that's OK - make big goals and you can achieve them."

Valerie asked Knight what got him interested in politics.

Knight told Valerie a story from 1984 when Knight was a high school senior and he attended a Palmdale City Council meeting. Knight's late father, William J. "Pete" Knight, was mayor of Palmdale at the time. The elder Knight helped a constituent who addressed the council about a broken sidewalk in front of her house.

"I thought that was a cool thing," Knight said. "Kind of a small deal, but something that she was having a hard time with and my dad just said, 'Don't think this is a big deal; we're just going to make this happen."

That prompted Knight to start thinking about how he could help people.

"I like to do the same thing I think you're thinking of - if you can affect somebody's life then you've made it better for them," Knight said.

Knight gave Valerie her first tip if she wants to enter politics.

"First, do something - go have your career, go learn and do what you want to do," Knight said.

The second piece of advice Knight gave Valerie was to get involved in the community.

"If you became a Rotarian, or a Kiwanis, or something like that. people will see and say, 'Valerie gets there early, always picks up the chairs at the end, and does the little things that make our club good,'" Knight said.

Knight explained how his office helps people, such as a U.S. Air Force veteran who received a new lung about two years ago.

"If you want to be good at politics be good at working the problem; don't be so good at working the drama," Knight said.

Knight also advised Valerie to ignore what people say about you on social media. He paraphrased a Winston Churchill quote about if you are not making people mad, then you are not leading.

"I always kind of keep that in my head that no matter what I do I'm probably to make some people mad," Knight said. "But we're trying to make the good for the majority of the people, and move forward. But you have a great attitude -if you keep that  you're going to do good."

Valerie asked Knight about his favorite books. Knight said he reads a lot of political thrillers, or spy novels, such as the Mitch Rapp books by the late author Vince Flynn.

"There's a hero who goes and fights bad guys, they're fast-paced and they're fun to read," Knight said.

Knight also reads books for work. His reading list includes current history, such as books about what's going on in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"What were your favorite subjects in school?" Valerie asked.

"Math," Knight said. "Math always works. Math today was the same 100 years ago, and in 100 years math will be the same. It works."

Valerie said her favorite subject is science. She wants to major in a science field such as biomedical engineering, and then do what she needs to do to get into politics.

"We could use a biomedical engineer in Congress," Knight said. "We have a lot of attorneys. We have enough attorneys."

Valerie asked Knight which book series -"Harry Potter" or "The Hobbit" - was his favorite.

"Well, Harry Potter wasn't around when I was in school so I haven't read any Harry Potter. But we did have to read the 'Lord of the Rings' books. I think 'Two Towers' was the best one," Knight said.

Valerie said she will try out for the academy's robotics and Science Olympiad teams this year.

"I thought it was very cool that he came all the way here," Valerie said afterward.

Knight's visit to Fulton & Alsbury Academy came about after Glatfelter discovered Valerie wanted to get into politics when she grows up. Valerie completed Glatfelter's summer challenge to his students - take one of Harvard University's free online courses.

Valerie, 12, finished all 21 hours of Harvard's CS50 Introduction to Computer Science course.

The course is described as an introduction to the intellectual enterprises of computer science and the art of programming.

"It was fun. I took a lot of out that," Valerie said.

Valerie credited her mother, Ruth Espinoza, for encouraging her to take the class. "She really motivates me to do a lot," Valerie said.

"She's a wonderful girl," Espinoza said, adding she is trying to help her daughter achieve her goals.

Knight also conducted a "town hall" meeting with the school's 139 eighth graders.

 

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