Travis Childers takes on an 8th grader

He held their gaze like a movie star, taking their questions and later shaking their hands and posing for photos.

Prompted by letters to him from students, U.S. Rep. Travis Childers, D-Miss., visited eighth-grade history students Friday morning at Southaven Middle School.

Supt. Milton Kuykendall — seated with Southaven Mayor Greg Davis, a Republican who lost the congressional seat to Childers — tried to put the visit in perspective for the young teens, “How many of you will get the opportunity to talk live to a congressman? I’m honored.”

More than 100 students sat in the school library and listened attentively to Childers, a few volleying him questions that were worthy of a press conference.

Dakota Frayser, 13, asked about his thoughts on energy conservation. Billing Ortiz, also 13, whose father is serving overseas in the military, asked about Childers’ position on the war. Lauren Lovett, 14, wanted to know about prayer in schools.

“I support prayer in schools,” Childers said. “It’s my personal faith that dictates that.”

She was soon to discover that in politics, answers can be complicated.

Childers added that though he supports prayer he would not want to be told who to pray to and does not want prayer in schools to become a big, divisive issue.

“I would like him to elaborate more,” Lauren said later.

Charlene Cain, another 14 year old, was not satisfied with Childers’ discussion of the federal bailout of AIG and other financial institutions. She wants to go into politics and wants a firmer understanding of the decisions she sees publicized in the media.

“It answered some questions,” said Charlene, who thinks bailout money should have gone directly to families in need. “I want to go into politics, and I’m not getting some of these decisions.”

Commercial Appeal