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Just Owen and his shadow

When Lt. Gov. Brad Owen woke up and saw his shadow on Groundhog Day, he didn't predict

that there would be six more weeks of winter. Instead, the lieutenant

governor's shadow meant that Jed Dern from Cedarcrest High would be

following him around for the day.

"It was a good chance to see what was going on in the state Senate

and see what the lieutenant governor really does," the Red Wolves'

junior said.

Dern was chosen to follow one of the state's most influential

politicians as part of the nationwide Groundhog Job Shadow Day. Dern was

among 2,000 other students in the state who followed politicians, executives

and media personalities last week.

"I was very nervous at first because I have never done anything

like this before," Dern said. "But by

the end of the day I felt more comfortable."

"[Owen] is very friendly and he doesn't make you feel like he's

way more important [than you are]," he added.

The duo's day started at 9 a.m., which allowed time for Dern

and Owen to chat before the demands of the day surrounded them. Then

Dern curiously watched as Owen presided over the discussions of several bills

in the Senate.

"Sometimes I felt out of place because I couldn't understand what

they were talking about," Dern said.

"But some things I could relate to, like substance abuse for teens, where I

probably knew as much about it as they did."

After all of the legislative business was finished for the morning, the

lieutenant governor spent some time in Dern's world — as a student.

The Spanish Consulate offered to supply a teacher for anyone who wanted

to learn the language, so Owen and several staff members signed up for

the course.

"We have such a large Spanish-speaking population in

Washington," Owen explained. "When I do

my [school-related] programs, I want to honor them and have some

conversation in Spanish with the students. And make them feel important."

Dern, who is learning Japanese at Cedarcrest High, managed to

learn two words during the session — tren and autobus — which mean

"train" and "bus" in English. "That's

about it; that's all I could pick up," he admitted.

Owen also spends time in high schools and middle schools across

the state talking with students about drug, alcohol and violence issues. And

he was impressed with Dern's determination and interest in the same

youth-related topics.

"Jed's a reinforcement of what we've been saying for a long time,

that 99.999 percent of our young Americans are not fodder for

Columbine," he said. "And it's good to have

that reassurance."

At Cedarcrest, Dern is involved with Partners in Prevention

which finds alternative activities for teens to do instead of their turning to drug

or alcohol abuse. Dern said he'll invite Owen to speak at the school to

give his perspective on drug use among high-school aged students because

it's a problem that affects the entire Valley.

"It's always there," Dern said. "You can just turn away from

them, which a lot of people do, or you can get involved with them, which is

what other kids do."

"I will keep in touch with [Owen] because we can talk about issues

with him and he could give us a legislative point of view," he added.

By the end of Groundhog Day, that was exactly what the lieutenant

governor said he was willing to do for Dern.

"It was a very good match and hopefully by being here and

talking, we gave him some encouragement to go forward with some things

he wanted to do," Owen said. "And I

was probably more impressed with him than he was with me."

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