Sen. Pavlov, students attend governors the 2011 State of the State

LANSING — State Sen. Phil Pavlov and his guests, two local high school students, attended Gov. Rick Snyder’s inaugural State of the State address Wednesday. Both students participated in Pavlov’s annual State of the State essay contest.

“I’m thrilled that Ashley and Drew were here for the governor’s first State of the State,” said Pavlov, chair of the Senate Education Committee. “It’s an exciting time in Michigan, and we must engage our young people to help make our great state even greater.”

Ashley VanOoteghem, the contest winner, accompanied the senator to the House of Representatives to watch the governor’s address. The Lapeer East High School sophomore’s essay was selected by Pavlov as the winning entry.

“I’m really grateful for this opportunity,” said VanOoteghem, daughter of Kim and Jim VanOoteghem. “Government is something I’m very passionate about and I think more people in my age group should be interested in it.”

Runner-up, Yale High School sophomore Drew Morgan watched from the House balcony. Each elected official is allowed one guest to join them on the House floor.

“I’m just really happy Senator Pavlov provided this opportunity for me to see how state government works,” said Morgan, son of Sally Morgan.

“I’m excited about the proposals we heard tonight,” said Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township. “Governor Snyder understands we have to begin doing things differently in Michigan, and I look forward to working with him to get our state back on the right track.”

Students participating in the contest were asked to write a 250-500 word essay detailing their vision to reinvent Michigan.