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    Sunday, May 19, 2024

    Norwich Free Academy students school Lamont on youth issues

    Gov. Ned Lamont, right, and Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom, speak to Norwich Free Academy juniors and seniors and members of the Young Voters Society on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Norwich Free Academy Senior Adrien Girard speaks with Gov. Ned Lamont about college admissions and the expectations of students as Lamont and Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom meet with NFA juniors and seniors and members of the Young Voters Society, Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Governor Ned Lamont tours the Slater Memorial Museum with museum Director Dayne Rugh on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, at Norwich Free Academy. Gov. Lamont asked to visit the museum before talking to NFA students. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Gov. Ned Lamont, right, and Mayor Peter Nystrom speak to Norwich Free Academy juniors and seniors and members of the Young Voters Society on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Gov. Ned Lamont, right, and Mayor Peter Nystrom, speak to Norwich Free Academy juniors and seniors and members of the Young Voters Society on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Norwich ― Norwich Free Academy students addressed the pros and cons of social media and other issues during a discussion with Gov. Ned Lamont and Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom Wednesday.

    Lamont contacted the academy last week, telling NFA Head of School Nathan Quesnel: “I want to talk to kids.”

    More than 100 students in civics and government classes and members of the NFA Young Voters Society met with the governor in the Slater Auditorium.

    But first, Lamont briefly visited the recently reopened Slater Memorial Museum’s collection of 1888 cast replicas of the world’s most famous sculptures. Lamont first toured the museum during its renovations at the urging of state Sen. Cathy Osten.

    On Wednesday, he called the museum one of his favorite places.

    “That is a treasure. We’ve got to tell this story better,” Lamont said.

    Having attended a forum on artificial intelligence at Mohegan-Sun earlier Wednesday, Lamont urged students to stay in Connecticut to pursue post-high school education and careers. He also advised them to mix science and arts in their studies and to experiment by taking classes outside their core interests to maybe spark new passions.

    When Adrien Girard, a senior from Voluntown, said even students with top academic records find it difficult to get into Ivy League colleges, Lamont agreed. But he said students should not just look for the brand name in colleges.

    “We have some of the best colleges in the world,” Lamont said. “Just like your school here, we have people from all over the world who want to come to Connecticut to come to college.”

    He said the important thing is for students to find what they love to do, put their hearts into it and excel.

    The conversation quickly turned to social media and the use of smartphones in school. Several students said they try to limit their social media activities, calling it a distraction that interferes with personal relationships. One student said girls and boys no longer ask each other out, they ask for phone numbers and converse through social media, where some messages become distorted or misinterpreted.

    Senior Hailie Davidson of Norwich, who will attend Eastern Connecticut State University in the fall, said social media can be helpful. She is using an Instagram page to connect with other incoming ECSU students.

    Asked by the governor for solutions to address social media anxiety and isolation, junior Natalie Bezanson of Baltic, said she opposes mandated limits or bans on social media.

    “I don’t think we should say, ‘ban it,’ ” she said. “It’s what you make out of it. I don’t think completely removing it would do anything.”

    Addressing the congressional proposal to ban TikTok, Bezanson said there could be a good reason talk about a ban to limit the Chinese government’s influence in the United States.

    Junior Drea Tutt was one of several NFA students who attended a Norwich Board of Education meeting Tuesday and urged the board not to cut music programs. Nystrom responded that the programs are remaining, but they will have fewer teachers as the board tries to cut an $11 million proposed budget increase, which he said the city cannot afford.

    Nystrom and Lamont both urged the students to bring their issues and complaints directly to elected leaders and to run for office themselves.

    “I would urge you to come in with the passion you just did, and spend a day at the legislature,” Lamont said. “Knock on the doors of the governor, the lieutenant governor and the legislature.”

    c.bessette@theday.com

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