SOMERS — U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wis., reached out to some of his youngest constituents Tuesday, meeting with 15 students at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.

During the event, hosted by the Parkside College Republicans, Steil answered questions and spoke about health care reform, the government shutdown and human trafficking, among many other topics.

Steil, who was on the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents and spoke at Parkside’s graduation ceremony two years ago, said he was encouraged to see the students engaged.

“I love to see students ask questions across the board,” he said. “It’s great to see the level of engagement that we have here in Wisconsin. People in southeast Wisconsin, people in Kenosha, are tied into what’s going on. They’re thinking about it critically, and they’re asking the right questions.”

Zachary Smith, the chairman of the Parkside Republicans, said the event went well.

“I’m glad he was able to speak to students and hear our perspective,” Smith said.

This was Steil’s first visit with a university’s college Republican group since being elected.

A student’s perspective

Parkside student Joe Blaszcynski said he was able to learn more about what Steil is doing at the national level.

Blaszcynski said he agreed with Steil’s support of the UW-System tuition freeze while he was on the UW Board of Regents.

“I’m glad to see him at Parkside, and I’m glad to see our congressman open to the community and open to the students here,” he said.

Alfredo Monroy, a junior at Parkside, said, although he doesn’t identify as a Republican, he still wanted to hear what Steil had to say.

“He is a new representative, and I think it’s important that when they do get elected that they come back to the community and keep getting involved and not just staying in Washington,” Monroy said.

Ismael Ortiz, a history student at Parkside, said staying informed is important.

“You have to stay up to date. It’s always good to know what the people in charge are doing,” Ortiz said.

Below the radar

Steil said he is looking to address issues that are “below the radar,” as much as he is looking to tackle high-profile issues.

Below-the-radar issues could include flood insurance reform, terrorism risk insurance or the export-import bank, according to Steil.

But Steil also explained that “transformative change” needs to happen as well. Steil said he is working to reach across the aisle on addressing human trafficking.

He said a bipartisan bill on this topic will be announced soon.

Steil also said he favors making college more affordable.

“We need to make sure we’re properly funding Pell Grants, and we’re making sure that we’re taking low-income students and giving them that opportunity to be able to obtain a four-year degree and live out the American dream,” Steil said.

Steil also praised Parkside for reaching out to first-generation students.

“Parkside uniquely gives opportunities to people, in particular first-generation students, and the ability to get a four-year degree, and they’re also tied into the workforce here in Racine and Kenosha counties,” he said. “They’re really preparing students for jobs of the future here.”

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