Local students craft legislation, testify in Kansas House to honor forgotten Topeka hero

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Local students craft legislation, testify to honor forgotten Topeka hero

A group of local high school students will testify in the Kansas Statehouse Wednesday in support of a bill they wrote. The Civic Engagement Club at Seaman High School wrote a bill to rename 4.5 miles of U.S. Highway 75 from Interstate 70 to the 46th Street exit in honor of historic Topekan John Armstrong.

Nathan McAlister, history teacher at Seaman High, says in depth projects like this get students excited about government.

“When you’re in their testifying and you’re talking to legislators to lobby them to pass your bill, that’s a whole other ball game,” said McAlister.

This bill started as a Civil War research project for sophomore Cade Rothenberger. Armstrong was a Civil War veteran, a very early settler of Topeka and one of the men that helped establish the Underground Railroad in Topeka.

“He wanted to do something about slavery and he was very well known for the abolitionists in Kansas,” said Rothenberger. “They were all a group and he was a big part of that. He helped make things happen.”

Despite Armstrong’s record here in Kansas, Rothenberger had some difficulty researching Armstrong. Once he started working with the Civic Engagement Club, the students began researching in the Kansas State Archives. Still, the students were only able to find a couple images of Armstrong.

McAlister says the students are also working at crafting city legislation to rename the Kansas Avenue bridge in honor of Armstrong and John Ritchie, the two men who established the Undergrouand Railroad in Topeka.

The Rothenberger and other Seaman students will testify before the House Transportation Committee at 1:30 pm Wednesday.

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