04-18-2019 Columns

Easter This Sunday, Christians from throughout Southwest Michigan and the world, including my family, will gather to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter. Easter is the most important event in the Christian faith, and for good reason. Though He lived a guiltless life, Jesus willingly and obediently sacrificed himself to atone for the world’s sin, so that all who believe in Him may live in eternity. This is a great time for all who believe to consider the immensity of that moment in our history, and to reflect on our own lives and the standard Jesus set for how we should live them. We are reminded to love our neighbors as ourselves and that there is no greater love than to sacrifice for others. As a wife, mother, daughter, sister — and as your state senator — I strive to live a life that is pleasing to those I love, to those I serve, and above all to God. It is my hope that each of you has a wonderful Easter with your families and that we all are able to honor this important holiday by striving to improve ourselves and our communities. As always, residents can contact my office with their thoughts on any important state or local issues facing Southwest Michigan by calling (517) 373-6960 or emailing SenKLaSata @Senate.Michigan.gov.

Alcohol awareness Drinking too much alcohol increases people’s risk of injuries, violence, drowning, liver disease, and some types of cancer. This April, during Alcohol Awareness Month, the Berrien County Health Department encourages all residents to prevent alcohol abuse in Berrien County by spreading awareness about the dangers of drinking too much. It is especially important for parents of teenagers to be aware of the dangers of teen alcohol use. This time highlights the important role that parents can play in giving kids a better understanding of the impact that alcohol can have on their lives. No other substance is more widely used and abused by America’s youth than alcohol, making alcoholism, and related problems, a major public health problem in the United States. Alcohol use by young people is extremely dangerous — both to themselves and to society, and is directly associated with traffic fatalities, violence, suicide, educational failure, alcohol overdose, unsafe sex and other problem behaviors, even for those who may never develop a dependence or addiction. Adolescence is a time of heightened risk-taking and as alcohol and drugs enter the picture, parents are faced with a unique set of challenges. They can simply sit back and hope their kids will ‘get through it,’ or they can take an active role in learning about alcohol and drugs and helping their kids do the same. Research has shown that kids who have conversations with their parents to learn about the dangers of alcohol and drug use are 50% less likely to use alcohol and drugs than those who don’t have such conversations. The Berrien County Health Department encourages parents to help their teens foster healthy and responsible attitudes about alcohol, talk openly and honestly about the risks of alcohol use, and show teens that their opinions and decisions matter. To learn more about spreading awareness about alcohol abuse, visit the Berrien County Health Department website at www.bchdmi.org.

Supporting FIRST Robotics in Michigan and around the nation Michigan has the most FIRST Robotics teams in the country, and I have always been a proud supporter of this incredibly important program. FIRST is the nation’s leading not-for-profit STEM engagement program. Each year, more than one million students in the United States and 100 countries participate in FIRST.

Students on FIRST teams learn valuable skills and will grow up to become inventors, teachers, engineers, and community leaders.

One of the bills I am working on right now to champion FIRST Robotics is H.R. 500, the Christa McAuliffe Commemorative Coin Act of 2019. This legislation would mint a $1 coin in honor of Christa McAuliffe, the teacher and astronaut who perished in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, and support the FIRST Robotics program.

I’m sure a few of our FIRST Robotics students in southwest Michigan might even follow in the footsteps of Christa McAuliffe and become astronauts whose vision extends beyond our world. Last week I had a great conversation on the progress of the legislation with Dean Kamen, the founder of FIRST Robotics.

I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get this legislation across the finish line.

To learn more about important legislative issues, follow me on Twitter at @RepFredUpton or visit my website: upton.house.gov. You can also call my offices in Kalamazoo (269-385-0039), St. Joseph/ Benton Harbor (269-982-1986), or Washington, D.C. (202-225-3761).