Governor visits to sign Viera students' bill into law


Florida Gov. Rick Scott visited Brevard Sept. 21 to sign the student-led American Flag Act bill at Viera High School, as Jefferson Club legislative lead Tim Lancaster and former faculty advisor Matt Susin look on, first and second from the left. Not pictured but joining them on stage is Susin's project partner Tim Thomas. Photo by Linda Wiggins.

Gov. Rick Scott appeared in Brevard to sign the All American Flag Act bill Sept. 21 at Viera High School, where students lobbied for the legislation during the past two school years that was put in motion starting in 2013. The law requires government entities across the state to purchase their U.S. flags in America from American-made parts.

“I always encourage the students I meet to go into politics,” Scott told a standing-room-only audience in the VHS auditorium filled with local and state legislators, all members of the Brevard County School Board, community leaders, students and parents, and a full contingent of television and print media.

“I tell them that if they are not in office, someone else will be there in that spot with different views than theirs, and they will miss out on that opportunity to share their ideas.”

Many of the students experienced the making of making of the law before they were even old enough to vote.

“We are beyond thrilled at the accomplishments of our students,” said VHS senior Army JROTC instructor retired Lt. Col. Tim Thomas.

The bill fell short of approval last year and former VHS teacher Matt Susin, faculty sponsor of the project, partnered with Thomas to drum up support from veterans and seniors to bolster the students' approach to legislators.

“This didn't happen without our veterans,” Susin told attendees.

Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Suntree, sponsored the bill the first year, but his house leadership position kept him from doing so this session. Rep. Bob Cortes, R-Central Florida, took over for Workman and garnered support required for its passage in this year's session. Sen. Thad Altman led the charge in the senate. Susin and Thomas rallied supporters back home and led teams to Tallahassee several times to press for support.

Andrew Matos, a student at Eau Gallie High School, came up with the idea in Susin’s class in the Jefferson Awards for Public Service Club. Susin later taught at VHS and sponsored a Jefferson Club there, continuing work on the project. After Susin left the teaching profession last year, Thomas took over as project faculty guide, with Susin remaining aboard as a community volunteer.

“It was a fantastic experience every step of the way,” VHS Jefferson Club American Flag Act lead Tim Lancaster said at the event. “I'll remember today for the rest of my life.”

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