Summertime may be a break from learning for most students, but not state Rep. Scott Petri’s interns.
At a meeting at the Wrightstown Library last week, Anthony DePietto, Sean Burke and Daniel Saltzman gave reports on the Syrian refugee situation, Pennsylvania’s opioid crisis and a bill regarding abortion that’s currently working through the state’s legislature.
The subjects are complex, controversial and often stir up strong emotions in people, making them challenging to research. But, it’s the kind of work these “smart, intuitive” students have been doing all summer, according to Petri.
“They’ve saved the taxpayers a lot of money in the communities they serve with the things they’ve done,” said Petri.
A large part of their job, he explained, has been to research the issues about which Petri’s constituents contact him to ask questions or voice opinions. They’re often complex and evolving topics that require a great deal of research, consideration and fact-checking before his office can send a proper response.
No matter what the issue or perception of it is, noted Petri, “There’s always another side to it.”
Those full stories were what the interns spent most of their summer uncovering, and it’s what they did for their final project. For this meeting, each one picked a new topic and mined hard data to paint as complete a picture as they could, and offered their opinions on each on what they found.
DePietto, a rising senior at Council Rock South, explored the Syrian refugee situation, outlining what’s happening in the U.S., France, Germany and Canada along with information on local impact. Fellow CR South senior Sean Burke’s presentation on the opioid crisis explored the crisis nationally and statewide with statistics and overviews of enacted and proposed legislation.
Meanwhile, University of Pittsburgh sophomore Daniel Saltzman dug into House Bill 1948, which concerns provisions and definitions for abortions in the state, and proposes to change the window of time in which a woman can legally get an abortion.
“This was an issue that we got a lot of phone calls, emails and regular mail about,” noted Saltzman.
The bulk of the work involved compiling large amounts of data, then sifting through it all. But, noted one intern, one of the challenges was casting aside preconceived notions when putting it all together.
“You hear a lot of things from talking heads on the news, things like that, and you wonder what the facts are behind it and how should I feel about it,” said DePietto. “When I was doing my research, there are merits to both sides of the argument, so you have to figure out where you stand.”
Petri, who hadn’t seen the reports before the presentation, applauded their depth and clarity and commended the three for their work.
“Our young people are really paying attention to what’s going on. Maybe even more than we did growing up,” he said.
These interns, Petri added, “are going to be great community leaders.”