While most New Yorkers watched Governor Andrew Cuomo's State of the State speech on TV, Cobleskill-Richmondville students enjoyed a much closer view.
Sampling the pomp and circumstance of state government at its best, 18 middle school students saw the Governor deliver his message in person last Wednesday.
The C-R students, all from the student council, were among 95 middle schools invited from just four districts around the state.
The invitation to C-R developed out of a meeting Superintendent Lynn Macan had with one of the Governor's advisors last spring.
Three of the students and student council advisor Julie Mullaney reported on their trip.
After traveling to the Egg and Empire State Plaza Convention Center, the students were treated to lunch courtesy of SUNY.
And although they're young, the students got adult treatment: Credentials on lanyards to wear at the event and a security check.
"I was the only one who had to turn my pockets inside out," seventh-grader Taylor Gillespie gently complained. "Nobody else did."
The event itself was more than a surprise.
"None of us was sure what to expect," Ms. Mullaney said. "The judges and senators and other officials seated in front, all the people. . .it was something."
Though the thrill of the surroundings may have been distracting, students caught the Governor's messages on education, gun control and more.
"I liked what he said about going green and having solar panels on buildings," eighth-grader Bernadette Nichols said.
Sixth-grader Bobby Lang agreed and touched on other issues.
"I had no idea there were so many problems--drugs, women's rights, the environment," Bobby said.
All three endorsed Governor Cuomo's tougher stance on guns.
"I absolutely agree with that," Bernadette said.
All three also agreed with what he had to say about education. . .for the most part.
"I liked what he said on education, except for the longer school day," Taylor said.
"You can't focus that long for that many days," added Bernadette.
"And when he said we should have better teachers, he could have worded that better."
The contrast between watching on TV and being there in person was striking. The students could have reached the same opinions watching the Governor on television. Seeing the entire setting made a huge difference.
"It was very different in person, looking around and seeing how people reacted," Taylor said. "When he talked about women's rights, some people stood up and clapped and some just sat there."
"The room was so big, with all those people," Bernadette said. "You don't get that feeling watching it on TV when the camera just zooms in on him."
Taylor noted that the students never expected to go and learned they'd make the trip only the previous Friday.
Ms. Mullaney said it was a day students will never forget, and they agreed.
"It was an amazing experience," Bernadette said. "We were at a serious government meeting, sitting in a room with all those important people. It was amazing."