Students Take Legislative Action

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CORVALLIS, Ore. – The name of a trail in Eastern Oregon is creating some controversy, and students at Cheldelin Middle School are taking legislative action to try to change its name.

The trail’s name is Negro Knob Trail in Grant County. Since it is on Federal property, there is a long process that must be completed before the name can be changed.

Though the trail physically does not exist anymore, the name remains in state and national records. A group of eighth graders at Cheldelin think the name is culturally insensitive, so students are taking matters into their own hands.

On Friday, the group of students met with Jamie Dunphy, a Constituent Services Representative for US Senator Jeff Merkley. Dunphy explained to the students that the process of changing the name would not be a quick or easy one, but that if they were passionate about creating change, that it would be possible.

“I’m really interested in the legislative process,” said eighth grader Maddie Smith. “And I’ve been to D.C. and seen the Senate and Representatives pass bills, so I just wanted to be part of it.”

The trail is on federal land, so students will need to submit a formal application before the name can be changed. But first, they will do some research on the area. They will also come up with a new name for the trail that will be part of their proposal.

“I’m excited that I get to be a part of it,” Smith said. “And I feel that this trail, even though it’s not there anymore, shouldn’t be named that.”

Senator Merkley’s Office says the exciting part of the project is that students are getting involved in the democratic process.

“I wanted to make this a learning opportunity to get kids engaged early,” Dunphy said. “If eighth grade kids can make a change on the national scale; if they’ve seen an injustice and can fix it; absolutely everybody can.”

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