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  • Jordyn Forte – Journal News Independent

Freshman class of lawmakers visit Stonehill

EASTON - Five newly elected state representatives gathered at Stonehill College recently to reflect on their first year on Beacon Hill.

The event, held Nov. 9 by the Martin Institute for Law and Society, featured state Reps. Jessica Ann Giannino, D-Revere, (16th Suffolk), Meghan Kilcoyne, D- Northborough, (12th Worcester), Brandy Fluker Oakley, D-Boston (12th Suffolk), Ted Philips, D-Sharon, (8th Norfolk), and Adam Scanlon, D-N. Attleboro (14th Bristol).

Philips, an UMass Amherst graduate, said he began his political career as a freshman in high school after he became a homeroom representative for his class.

“I caught the bug for politics in high school, and I’ve had it ever since,” said Philips, whose district includes Mansfield.

Giannino said she was also involved in politics while in high school. Giannino, however, found her political calling while at Salem State University, where she became involved with the Student Government Association (SGA) and the Commuter Council.

“I commuted, worked full-time, and I took seven classes, so I got involved on campus through clubs,” she said.

Giannino said she began her political career outside of school as a Revere City Councilor At-Large in 2012 at age 20.

Kilcoyne, who graduated from Stonehill College with a degree in history, said she began her political career a bit differently than the other panelists.

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my degree; I knew what I didn’t want to do,” Kilcoyne said.

The summer after graduating from Stonehill, Kilcoyne began an internship in state Rep. Harold Naughton’s office, she said. By the end of the summer, Kilcoyne’s internship became a full-time job.

Fluker Oakley, a Boston native and a graduate of Syracuse University, found her political voice at a young age.

“I organized my first protest in third grade and my second protest in fifth grade,” she said.

Fluker Oakley said she is drawn to urban education issues, and she became a third-grade teacher in Baltimore, Maryland to understand firsthand how the law impacts education systems. This, Fluker Oakley said, eventually led her to enroll in law school at Emory University to learn how to become a better advocate.

Scanlon lives in North Attleboro, and, at age 25, is currently the youngest representative in Massachusetts. His district also includes Mansfield.

“It’s a big honor to hold the same seat that Speaker Martin once held,” Scanlon said.

Scanlon became involved in politics as a community advocate at 17-years-old, when the North Attleboro education budget came into question, he said.

In 2017, Scanlon ran for School Committee against two incumbents, and won. He also attended Framingham State University, where he graduated from with a degree in political science.

Kathleen Currul-Dykeman, the director of the Martin Institute, posed a two part question to the representatives:

What is one thing you accomplished in the past year that you are proud of, and what challenges have you faced because of COVID-19?

“I’m most proud of the level of constituent services that we’ve provided to people in the past year,” Philips said.

Giannino said she is proud of the single-use plastic bag ban that went into effect in Saugus in March 2020.

“I’m passionate about a promise that I made – that I will be able to be an effective advocate for my region,” Kilcoyne said.

Fluker Oakley said that she is pleased to have gotten an allocation for critical funding for Smart from the Start, an organization, “promoting the healthy development of children and families.”

Scanlon is most proud of developing a placeholder bill to develop the workforce and to increase the number of labor and workforce programs available to students, as well as exposure to them.

“I got over 35 people to sign onto the bill. It’s not the final product, but a tool to get people to talk about these issues,” Scanlon said.

The five panelists shared similar answers when it came to challenges that they faced on Beacon Hill as a result of the pandemic; all identified a lack of in-person connection as a key difficulty that they experienced.

“We haven’t had much in-person time,” Fluker Oakley said.

“It was challenging having to do a lot of this work without face-to-face interaction,” Kilcoyne added, “and, I look forward to the day where we can all be in the chamber together.”

While Philips echoed the concerns and sentiments of his fellow representatives, he acknowledged there were some positive aspects of the pandemic, such as the way that is fostered creativity and the development of unique bonds and connections.

“This freshman class has actually become closer because of the challenges we have faced,” Philips said. “We had to work harder to form relationships.”


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