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The Governor and Me… And a Paid Family Leave Rally

CuomoJenWhite20111026by Hunter Andrasko
It was 9 p.m. on Sunday night when I received an email from Nyack Mayor Jen Laird White. Do you want to skip school tomorrow? she asked. I’m a second semester senior at Nyack High School. Of course I want to skip school. I don’t need a reason. But the reason the Mayor provided made the offer all the more enticing: We would attend a rally for paid family leave being held by Governor Cuomo. As an AP American Government and Politics student and avid follower of all things politics, I jumped at the idea.  Who wouldn’t want to skip school to hear one of the most influential New York politicians  speak?
The Event:
On Monday morning at 9:30 a.m., Mayor White and I arrived at the West Haverstraw Community Recreation Center. The first thing I noticed was how many important people were also eagerly waiting to listen to Governor Cuomo. Multiple members of the NYS Assembly and NYS Senate were in attendance, plus many local legislators.
Listening to Governor Cuomo:
The event was my first ever political rally so I wasn’t sure what to expect. And yet, the event still managed to surprise. When we walked into the gymnasium, it was bustling with dozens of people greeting each other, and music was blaring from multiple speakers. The front three rows of the crowd were reserved for legislators and other special guests. But because a legislator was absent I was lucky enough to secure one of those coveted seats.
Coming from a family with mixed political ideologies, I was aware that opinion of Governor Cuomo was divided. However, after listening to Governor Cuomo speak, I was able to understand exactly why he is the leader of New York. He drew in the entire audience, whether speaking about his family or about his proposed plan for paid family leave. When he shared a story with us about how Congresswoman Lowey may have cost him a $200,000 car, the whole room broke into hysterical laughter.
The Message:
The reason Governor Cuomo held the rally was to emphasize the importance of establishing a NYS paid family leave program. Paid family leave is when you are still being paid a portion of your salary during a time when you cannot come into work due to a serious family issue. The governor’s plan would allocate 12 weeks of paid leave for those who need to care for sick family members.
Before listening to Governor Cuomo speak, I researched the reasons why some people and businesses oppose his idea. One example I found was that businesses were concerned that they would have to pay workers who weren’t even working while they were on the “paid leave.” The governor quickly refuted this argument. He explained that it would not cost businesses anything. Rather, workers would be paying into a separate account to fund the program. Workers would only have to pay sixty cents a week to start, and it would cost businesses nothing.
Meeting Governor Cuomo:
My favorite part of the day was when Governor Cuomo finished his speech. As soon as the applause started to die down, Mayor White called my name from a few rows up, uging me to get up there as soon as possible. Together, we pushed through the crowd and made our way up to the Governor, who is an old friend of the Mayor’s. She called him over and introduced me. Then she pulled out her phone and took a picture of us. Governor Cuomo shook my hand while we took the picture, thanked me for coming, and said that he hoped to be able to have more young people like myself involved in future events.IMG_1108
Meeting Congresswoman Lowey:
After the picture with Governor Cuomo, I didn’t think my day could get any more exciting. But as we started walking out, Mayor White again called me over. This time she introduced me to Congresswoman Nita Lowey. We talked about how important it is to get young people to vote. I mentioned that I was the student body president at Nyack. Without hesitation, she  said that she would love to come to the school one day to talk to my AP Government class. I’ve been communicating with her office, and they said that she will be available to come in within the next couple of weeks.

IMG_1110 (2)
It’s experiences like these that remind me that you can learn even when you aren’t in school. All in all, I think it’s safe to say that I had a pretty good day.
Hunter Andrasko is a Nyack High School senior and the NHS 2016 class president. 




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