OGDEN -- Rep. Brad Dee is taking an unconventional route to improving the state's educational system.
The Washington Terrace Republican, who serves as majority leader of the House, is using his own pocketbook to promote a program impacting elementary school students within his district.
For the second straight year, Dee sponsored a unique program that includes one student from each of the six elementary schools in his district visiting the Capitol during the 45-day legislative session. All of those students were also asked to write an essay about their experience.
Legislative interns judge those essays, and Dee then gives a cash award to participating students and their classrooms after the session is over. It is up to teachers, the participating student and administrators to decide how to use the funding.
This week, Dee visited South Weber Elementary, Roosevelt Elementary, Uintah Elementary, H. Guy Child Elementary, Riverdale Elementary and Washington Terrace Elementary to hand out those cash awards to students and participating teachers and classrooms. The awards range from $500 for South Weber Elementary from a winning essay written by Rachael Howell, to $300 for Roosevelt and $200 for Uintah Elementary, as well as $100 awards for H. Guy Child, Riverdale and Washington Terrace.
Last year, the program involved fifth-graders; this year the program focused on fourth-graders.
"This is the future. I love to work with these kids," Dee said of his program. He said he worked with superintendents in both Davis and Weber school districts to select students to take part in the program.
Dee said the idea of sponsoring the program came from an effort to use his position to expose students to the legislative process and also encourage an educational component beyond the visit.
The Washington Terrace Republican credits his mother and one educator, with making a big difference in his education, and in creating a vision of what he could become.
"My life was completely changed when I had a teacher who helped me and told me what my potential was and made me what I am today. Because this teacher was so involved with my life ... I can see doctors, lawyers, businesses, mathematicians and teachers. I can see teachers and professors at colleges and universities. I can see legislators right here, because you have so much potential," Dee told a group of fourth-graders during his visit to Uintah Elementary.
At the school, Dee talked about the legislative process and highlighted the participation of fourth-grader Michael Dastrup in the program. He also talked about a successful education formula of involving parents and teachers.
Dastrup said he enjoyed his trip and learned "a lot about government" in just one day. He noted he was in the House on the day a controversial gun bill, HB 76, was introduced on the floor.
Michael's teacher, Jackie Holmquist, and his school principal, Quinn Karlinsey, both described the program as something good for students, because it gives them something special to look forward to.