SOLEDAD — Last Thursday first-term Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D–California), son of former Congressman Leon Panetta, visited the City of Soledad.
Jimmy Panetta was elected to Congress during the November 2016 elections. He was hosted for lunch by the Soledad Rotary International Club and talked of his first 100 days in office.
“It’s easy to come here,” said Panetta to the group about visiting Soledad. “… From Jan. 3 to April 13, it has been 100 days. What I’d like to do today is just kinda give you a summary of what it’s been like, and let me tell you, yes, it has been crazy.”
He added, “It has been a whirlwind in Washington, D.C., it has been a deluge here in the district of constant information. But, I can tell you, right now that no matter how crazy it has been, hands down it has been the best job that I have ever had.”
He talked about new member orientation, how the new representatives are shown the ropes. In past times, the different parties wanted their members to stay within their chosen party, no co-mingling.
Although he is a Democrat, Panetta and his fellow first-term Congressmen, Democratic and Republican, are talking. Where the old guard would keep to their party, this new group will meet up, talk, have dinner and even discuss issues.
After lunch with the Rotary Club, Panetta moved on to the Soledad Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS). The children who attend are between 3 and 5 years old, their parents are migrant or seasonal agricultural farm workers.
The MSHS holds the principle that the first five years of a child’s life are the most crucial to a child’s learning process. There, the children play but are also given lessons, read to and learn colors, numbers and letters.
“I really just saw what this place is about,” Panetta said. “I got to sit through a reading of two books by a 4- or 5-year-old and then I got to meet a business owner here in town who was actually that age here and attended here at one point, and to me that is what this program is about.”
Panetta continued, “Taking care of people who come here, and then ultimately having those same children grow up and to then continue to give back to this area we call home. … This is a country of immigrants. It’s a country of people who are willing to take risks come here to give their children a better life.
“To me that is a dream that all of us want to fulfill, and it’s programs like that that help each one and every one of us not only individually but as a community to fulfill that dream,” he said.
One young lady to speak with Panetta was Paola Martinez, a sophomore at Soledad High School who was once a student at the Migrant Head Start. She is now enrolled is Upward Bound, Girls Inc, California Scholastic Federation (CSF) and Interact Club.
“I attended this Head Start for two years,” Martinez said. “An experience that lingers in my memory is when teacher Alma would read aloud books and I would always be eager about it and I would go home and ask one of my older sisters to read to me.”
Martinez is well on her way to prepare for her future and has her sights set on a four-year university.
Panetta assured parents that he and others in congress understand the need for programs like the MSHS, and that they are fighting for funding to keep programs open. Many of the parents and staff from the school talked with Panetta, thanking him for taking time to visit the school and asking that he keep up the fight for migrant families.