Albany, N.Y. – She was born and raised in Rockaway, has attended neighborhood Catholic schools, and now she’s giving Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D – Bayswater) a real run for his money. There’s just one catch: Madyson Middleton is still in the 4th grade.
Last week, Assemblyman Goldfeder invited the young St. Camillus Catholic Academy student and her family to Albany to take part in his “Assembly Member for a Day” program. The visit provided the eight-year-old with the opportunity to experience a day in the life of a New York State Legislator, getting an up-close look at the legislative process and the intricacies of the state’s ongoing budget negotiations.
“I always strive to make government more accountable and accessible to our families in southern Queens and Rockaway,” said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder. “What better way to do this than to give future leaders like Madyson the chance to see firsthand what it means to represent 130,000 people in the state legislature. It was an honor and a privilege to bring Madyson and her family into the people’s house and show them the work I do on behalf of the community.”
The transformation from elementary school student to Assembly Member began with a visit to Goldfeder’s office last month.
At the time, Madyson’s parents were seeking help applying for grants to pay for their daughter’s upcoming trip to Washington, D.C. as part of the National Youth Leadership Fellowship: Pathways to STEM program. Madyson, who was nominated for the program by her teacher, is a regular participant in the Assemblyman’s Summer Reading Challenge. This inspired her parents to reach out to Goldfeder’s office for help.
Seeing Madyson’s considerable passion for learning, Goldfeder offered the young girl and her family the chance to join him in Albany and learn about state government. Last year, Goldfeder similarly arranged to bring Rockaway Beach resident Charlie Ciliberti to Albany after meeting the budding journalist during a press conference at the Rockaway boardwalk reopening. Ciliberti’s visit included a taped interview with the Assemblyman in his Albany office. Footage of the hard-hitting Q&A can be viewed on the Assemblyman’s official Assembly page, as well as his YouTube Channel.
Accepting Goldfeder’s offer, Madyson, together with her mother, Shasa, and father, Philip, travelled by train to the state capital. Over two days, Madyson followed Assemblyman Goldfeder around through a packed schedule of legislative session, committee meetings, and visits to sites around the state capital.
On the floor of the Assembly, Goldfeder taught Madyson how legislators vote, showing her the buttons on his desk for voting yes or no on a bill. Once session was convened, the Assemblyman stood before colleagues to praise Madyson for her passion for learning, adding playfully that the visit served to prepare her for taking over his Assembly seat “whenever she’s ready.”
Afterwards, Goldfeder brought Madyson to the State Budget office to meet officials charged with reviewing this year’s proposed budget. Having learned of Madyson’s interest in Math, budget officials prepared activities to illustrate the state’s $150 billion expenditures.
Madyson rounded out her trip by joining Goldfeder for a Mental Health Committee meeting, where she was given the chance to sit at the table with other Assembly Members and give committee approval to bills on the Assemblyman’s behalf. In all, it was an experience she isn’t soon to forget.
“The Assemblyman’s invitation surpassed our expectations. Not only were he and his entire staff gracious, but the knowledge they passed down to Madyson every step of the way was amazing. He has always been accessible and engaging here in the community, and to see him in action in Albany was awe-inspiring to Madyson. As parents, we know that the two days Madyson spent with the Assemblyman in Albany have left an indelible mark on her life.
“She returned to St Camillus like a local star. She did learn a ‘politician’ handshake, which she’s been showing all her friends. Also, she promised the Assemblyman 20 new readers for his summer 2016 reading challenge, and is actively ‘campaigning’ in her school to fulfill her promise,” said Shasa Stuart-Middleton, Madyson’s mother.
“I told Madyson and her family that they were welcome to come back to Albany at any time. I just asked Madyson that she promise never to run against me,” quipped Goldfeder.