Government / Politics

GECA Students Get Political

Teenagers grill U.S. Congressional District 20 candidates Lucius and Panetta

Student leaders in the Politics Club at GECA (Gilroy Early College Academy) pulled off two successful political forums in April, hosting candidates for Sam Farr’s seat in the U.S. Congress. Farr will retire this year after serving District 20 — which encompasses San Benito, Santa Cruz, Monterey counties and a portion of south Santa Clara County — for 22 years. GECA is a Gilroy Unified School District high school housed on the Gavilan College campus.

In their social science classroom, the students grilled Republican Casey Lucius, (Casey Lucius for Congress) on April 19 then Democrat Jimmy Panetta (Jimmy Panetta for Congress) on April 26. Their teacher, William Dawson, told BenitoLink the students themselves organized and executed the events, drawing in an overflow number of eager listeners. As the campus hosts, club president Ekam Brar and vice president Christopher Chambless greeted the candidates, introduced them to fellow students, and thanked them with a small gift for sharing their valuable time at GECA.

Clearly, the candidates were impressed with the maturity they witnessed in these youngsters.

Students’ tough questions revealed the candidates’ positions, ranging from recent anti-LGBT legislation to free college tuition to adolescent mental health. They also wanted to know how one member of Congress could actually get anything accomplished in Washington these days. Students learned about two very different strategies: One included working with the Women’s Caucus and another focused on deep conversations with intent to negotiate and compromise.

High school students from within the Gavilan College service area are eligible to apply for entry into GECA. This includes all of San Benito County, Gilroy, San Martin, Morgan Hill, and a sliver of San Jose. Many GECA students graduate with both high school diplomas and two-year degrees. In any event, each student graduates with a bundle of college requirements already complete. Learn more about GECA here.


Lois Locci

A Hollisterian since 1999 (and a Silicon Valley escapee), Dr. Locci taught English and Intercultural Communication at De Anza College in Cupertino for years before adding a second career as chair of the education department of UC Extension, providing professional training in four counties and three countries. Also at UC, Dr. Locci led the development of Advanced Placement® and honors courses for the University of California College Prep Online until retiring in 2012. She served a four-year term as Trustee for Gavilan Joint Community College District and currently serves on the board of BenitoLink. She lives with her extended family in "Southside Valley."