HINSDALE — U.S. Rep. Tom Reed marveled at Hinsdale Central School’s new Environmental Pavilion overlooking a large pond south of the school.
“This is great,” he told Hinsdale Superintendent Larry Ljungberg on Thursday as they walked along a boardwalk toward the new wood structure. Carpenters were still working on the pavilion.
Seniors Aarika Mattys and Jackson Howell spoke with the Corning Republican as they walked from the warm school to the Environmental Pavilion. Howell was doubling as the yearbook photographer chronicling the event.
Plans are to conduct science classes at the pavilion next spring, Ljungberg told Reed.
The Environmental Pavilion was constructed as part of a $4.9 million capital project that included gymnasium improvements and a new soccer field.
Ljungberg also showed Reed the monitors and video equipment the district uses for its distance learning and other educational programs. He said the district was looking for more internships for students.
“We’re a small school,” the superintendent told Reed. “The governor wants us to do more shared services. We need more flexibility.”
Ljungberg said the local Connect Four schools — Olean, Allegany-Limestone, Hinsdale and Portville — had talked about the possibility of regional high schools, each with a different specialty.
Reed found himself seated at a table talking with Mattys and Howell and three of their fellow seniors, Mackenzi Adams, Ashley Chapman and Kayla Brooks in the distance learning room.
“What’s on your minds?” he asked the group, who seemed to prefer to talk about the school’s sports teams instead of national issues.
“Have you ever been to Washington?” Reed asked next.
Back in eighth grade, replied Howell. No, they hadn’t stopped by Reed’s Capitol Hill office.
Reed told the students he’d recently returned from a fact-finding trip to Puerto Rico, which is still recovering from crippling hurricane damage from two years ago.
“I’ve been around the world and met with world leaders” during 10 years in Congress, Reed told the group.
He said he recently met with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in the White House. Reed recalled serving in Congress with Pence before he was elected Illinois governor — then vice president.
“They’re no different than us,” Reed reminded the students.
The congressman asked how many of the students planned to stay in the area. They were unsure.
“I want you to stay here (after college or the military)” Reed told the students. While New York and the Southern Tier have seen an out-migration of residents, “a lot of them are starting to come back,” he said.
“Anyone want to run for public office?” Reed asked.
Howell, who said he plans to concentrate on becoming a successful attorney, said he “might be interested in becoming a judge” someday.
Reed encouraged them to consider public service. “We represent a lot of territory and a lot of people,” Reed said, explaining his 11-county district had 717,000 residents.