SPARTA, NJ – Sparta High School had a visit from congresswoman Mikie Sherrill on Tuesday.  More than 100 students filled the media center while others video conferenced in from the middle school to have a chance to hear and speak with the newly elected representative.

TAPinto Sparta also had a few minutes to speak with Sherrill.

Media Center Specialist Angela Deluccia had invited Sherrill to come to the school.  High school students were invited to sign up to attend.  Deluccial also arranged for seventh grade social studies students to video conference into the meeting.

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“It was such an honor to have one of my personal heroes, Mikie Sherrill speak to our students today,” Deluccia said. 

The students had a wide variety of questions ranging from gun control to climate changes.  They wanted to know if she was on any committees. Sherrill serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

“What was your scariest moment when you were in the Navy,” a student asked. Sherrill gave a detailed response about a drill that required escaping from a helicopter upside down in the water blindfolded and prisoner of war training.

Some questions were relevant to the students’ lives as well:  They wanted to know how hard is it to "get along with the other representatives and make a decision.  They asked if she "had ever experienced bullying.” Sherrill said she has not had a lot of experience being bullied.  She did say she did not really like her time in middle school but high school was better.

Sherrill told TAPinto Sparta, “Being on the floor of congress is like being in New Jersey.  It is very diverse, people have all kinds of backgrounds." She said her first bill, having to do with Gold Star Moms, paired her with Republican Trent Kelly of Mississippi.  Going by appearances and labels, Sherrill said the two could not have been more different but they had military service in common and with that as the focus were able to get the work done. 

The students asked big questions. “What are your thoughts on the building of the wall.” Sherrill said, “I don’t think we have a crisis compared to what we have seen over the decades.” She talked about the difference between illegal immigrants in the past and what they are today.  In the past it might have been someone sneaking over the boarder to find work and now they turn themselves in looking for asylum, Sherrill said.  

Sherrill told the students drugs that come into the country do so mainly through ports of entry, including through New Jersey.  She also said many people that are here illegally are overstaying their visas.  

A student asked how she felt during the government shut down. Sherrill said it was Congress’ job to create a budget “and we were not doing our job.”  She told them she had signed a letter to her colleagues in congress urging a resolution to the shutdown.  As a former federal worker, she said understands how important it is to get paid.

Sherrill was asked her opinion about having transgenders in the military.

“If you are willing to give up your life for your country, you should be able to sign up,” Sherrill told TAPinto Sparta.

A question asked by a seventh grade student learning about Congress in social studies was “when you are voting on a bill, do you think it’s better to vote the way your constituents want you to or vote the way you feel.”

That discussion continued after the students left.

 “Talk about courage,” Sparta Mayor Molly Whilesmith said in Deluccia's office. “Your vote against the speaker seemed to show you are going to vote your conscience and represent your constituents.”

“It would be hard for me to represent a district that isn’t who I am,” Sherrill said.  “You have to have a moral compass.  You can lose your soul in D.C.”

Whilesmith asked what it was like to be a part of the large class of strong women recently elected to Congress. 

“It’s great,” Sherrill said. “It feels like we are on the cusp of something different.” She said “issues that have been coalescing for a long time are now coming to a point" where they will have to be addressed.

“Taxes, health care and infrastructure are issues that cross all lines,” Sherrill said.  “You have to look for commonalities.” 

 “It is so important to understand that regardless of your political affiliation, being able to find common ground, communicate effectively and listen with intent are life skills that are invaluable,” Deluccia said.  “Mikie Sherrill embodies all of those qualities and our students reaped the benefits of this experience.”

Before leaving Sherrill commented on the students and the thoughtful questions. “They were very impressive,”  she said.

Editors Note: Many of the photos were taken by Sparta High School art student Mikayla Bivona.


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