Editor's Note: This is part of a series of blog posts by Nebraska's term-limited senators reflecting on their time in the Nebraska Legislature. We thank them for their dedication and service to Nebraska. In this post, Senator Tanya Cook looks back over her eight years representing District 13.
Term limits means I soon will leave the Nebraska Legislature. As I review my work over the past eight years, patterns emerge. My priorities have been health, justice, alleviating poverty, and education. Education is prominently featured in my list of proposed and adopted legislation. I present a few of those successes.
The ability of a child to learn is dependent upon several factors, including a nutritional diet. Well-nourished students are better able to learn, have fewer absences, improved behavior and cause less disruption in the classroom. We know that too many families are food insecure—or let’s call it what it is—hungry. I worked to better enable schools to adopt the Community Eligibility Provision, a food program that makes it possible for high-poverty schools to provide meals to students who may otherwise go hungry.
The education of our children in the early years is crucial to a child’s development and long-term academic and social success. Also important is the ability of our youth and young adults to continue to pursue an education that enables them to create a firm foundation for their futures. To that end, I successfully worked to expand access to training and testing for persons to obtain their GEDs. I also secured essential funding for our community colleges; institutions that are more accessible and affordable for many and which play a key role in increasing students’ employability while helping to meet workforce needs of our businesses.
One of the most heartbreaking challenges a child may face is life-threatening cancer and the oft-resulting medical problems and cognitive, behavioral and social impairments. These conditions make it difficult for a child to reintegrate into the classroom. I was gratified that my fellow senators agreed with me and adopted my bill to require schools to establish a return-to-learn protocol. This helps make the transition as smooth as possible for these unfortunate children.
While I take humble pride in my successes and actions on issues that have benefitted the lives of Nebraska families and children, I feel blessed to have had this opportunity that has enriched my life beyond measure. I’ve had the pleasure of working with extraordinary fellow public servants, many of whom will be lifelong friends. I have engaged in stimulating and impactful public policy debates, learned about a breadth of issues, and had opportunities to interact with a variety of people whom I would not otherwise have had the pleasure to meet.
I will miss much about the Legislature as I transition back into life as a private citizen, but the experiences always will be with me. It truly has been a great honor and privilege to have served the constituents of District 13 and the state as a whole.
Senator Tanya Cook