STATE AUDITOR Diana DiZoglio gave discussed the role state government plays in people’s lives during a presentation given to LMS eighth-graders on May 8. From left, civics teacher Michael Wein, Interim Superintendent Tom Geary, DiZoglio, Calleigh Caprio, Anna Diranian, Jack Culliane and LMS Principal Stephen Ralston. (Dan Tomasello Photo)



LYNNFIELD — State Auditor Diana DiZoglio gave Lynnfield Middle School eighth-graders a civics lesson during a presentation on May 8.

The middle school invited DiZoglio to give a presentation to eighth-graders while they are working on their Civics Action Projects. The secondary schools implemented the Civics Action Projects’ three years ago after former Gov. Charlie Baker signed “An Act to Promote and Enhance Civic Engagement” into law in 2018. The law requires public high schools and middle schools to offer a nonpartisan civics project to students.

DiZoglio, who is the commonwealth’s 26th state auditor, recalled that her mother gave birth to her when she was 17.

“I grew up housing insecure, which means we didn’t have a stable place to live when I was younger,” said DiZoglio. “We would move from place to place. Sometimes my mom would have an apartment and other times she couldn’t afford an apartment, so we would ‘couch surf.’ We stayed on our friends’ couches and stayed in our friends’ homes. They were very gracious to let us stay with them. We moved around a lot during my childhood and stayed in different places, mostly in the cities of Methuen and Lawrence.”

After graduating from Methuen High School in 2002, DiZoglio went on to attend Middlesex Community College.

“It was a school that my family could afford,” said DiZoglio. “I was really, really grateful for that opportunity. I had that opportunity because of our State Legislature’s investments in families like mine. I went to a community college that is funded by public tax dollars like this school is funded. I worked really hard, and I earned a financial scholarship to go off to Wellesley College. I became the first in my family to graduate. It was only through the investments of others that I was able to see some success in my life. I really, really wanted to give back to people in our communities in any way that I could.”

DiZoglio said her experiences growing up inspired her to work for different nonprofit organizations.

“I served at the United Teen Equality Center in the city of Lawrence as their cultural arts coordinator,” said DiZoglio. “I served at Girls’ Inc., which is a nonprofit that works with middle school girls who need services. I helped run their after-school programs. I did all of this while simultaneously waitressing and cleaning people’s houses because, as many working families know in Massachusetts, we might love what we do for our day job, but jobs like that don’t afford us the opportunity to live with a standard of dignity in the communities we are working hard to serve in.”

DiZoglio said she was offered a job as a legislative aide at the State House when she was in her 20s.

“At that point of my life, I had no idea what happened at our State House in Boston,” said DiZoglio. “I did not get a robust civics education like all of you are getting in your classes. A legislative aide is an assistant to a legislator. I needed a job at the time and even though I didn’t really understand government and thought government was a bunch of old guys yelling at each other on TV, I ended up taking the job.”

DiZoglio said working as a legislative aide taught her “about all the great things state government can do” such as providing funding for education, health care and transportation and other initiatives such as fighting climate change, and advocating for environmental justice and social justice.

“But as a younger woman working there in my 20s at the time, I learned about the flipside of how our government can operate,” said DiZoglio. “There is no accountability when there is not enough oversight.”

DiZoglio said she started being harassed while working as a legislative aide.

“That harassment got so bad by folks in political office and their staff that I actually ended up getting fired from my job so that they could stop me from being harassed,” said DiZoglio. “That was their way of solving the problem. They didn’t just fire me and send me on my way. On my way out the door, they required me to sign a document that prevented me from talking about what happened to anybody. They required me to stay quiet and not tell anybody about what was happening amongst our most powerful politicians in Massachusetts. But I did not let them get rid of me or let them keep me quiet.”

DiZoglio said the experience inspired her to run for state representative, and she was elected in November 2012.

“I became the youngest woman serving in the House of Representatives at that time,” said DiZoglio. “When I got elected, I knew it was my responsibility to fight for other families like mine who have also been disenfranchised and disconnected from a system in our state government that is not working for every day families like us. I really fought for increased transparency and accountability around those processes. I stood up to make sure all families in Massachusetts, regardless of where we live, regardless of our family background and regardless of how much is in our bank accounts, have a voice and are treated fairly.”

After serving three two-year terms in the House of Representatives, DiZoglio was elected to the State Senate in November 2018. She served two terms representing the First Essex District.

“I was the youngest woman serving in the State Senate the entire time I was there,” said DiZoglio. “I left when I decided to run for state auditor, which is a statewide office. I am now your youngest constitutional officer in Massachusetts.”

DiZoglio asked the eighth-graders if they have “ever been treated like you’re too young to know what you are talking about.” A large number of students raised their hands.

“When you are younger and have a lot of passion about something, when you see an injustice and call it out and when you fight for change, people are going to tell you to be quiet just like they told me to be quiet,” said DiZoglio. “Please do not let anybody hold you down when it comes to speaking your mind and calling out injustices. Don’t just stand up for yourself. Stand up for other people in your community that you know don’t have a voice. When we talk about civics and when we talk about civic engagement, it’s not just about learning how a bill becomes a law and being able to pass an exam. What we do in government is we stand up for actual families who could be harmed by the system that is incredibly inequitable right now. That system allows people to struggle with mental health issues, allows people to struggle with suicide ideations without assistance and allows people to continue struggling with the disease of addiction. That is a disease that doesn’t discriminate, no matter how much money we have.”

DiZoglio said families across Massachusetts are “separated from the decisions being made in state government.”

“That hurts us,” said DiZoglio.

DiZoglio said the state’s housing crisis has negatively impacted people across the state.

“A lot of people cannot afford to live in this state who work here,” said DiZoglio. “We have people working full-time jobs, two jobs and even three jobs, and they cannot afford to live in the community that they are working in because the cost of living is going up, but their salaries are staying the same. That is a problem and that is not okay. That is the type of thing we are struggling with in the state of Massachusetts right now. We need to make sure we are holding our government leaders to account. We need to make sure the decisions that are being made are having a positive impact.”

DiZoglio said politicians across the state should be taking young people’s viewpoints into consideration when making decisions.

“A lot of times, adults just spend time just talking to each other,” said DiZoglio. “That is why the status quo continues. We are not listening to this younger generation. When I come to places such as here and I have the opportunity to connect with all of you, it’s really, really exciting because I know that you have new, fresh ideas that can help our broken system of governance right now. I say that because it is the truth. The way that our system in Massachusetts is set up is not as inclusive as it needs to be to make sure that we are getting on the right track again regarding how we are spending your taxpayer dollars and the decisions we are making for all of us. We need bold and meaningful change in the state of Massachusetts to help families across the state, not just the ones who can pay for access.”

As state auditor, DiZoglio said she works to make sure there is “oversight and accountability” of state government.

“I make sure, with the help of my office, that there is no funny business and there is no waste,” said DiZoglio.  “My office makes sure that the funds are being sent to the right places so that your families are positively impacted. We watch out for how the money is being spent so it is not being spent inappropriately.”

DiZoglio encouraged the eighth-graders to use their voice to stand up for what they believe in.

“We need to hear what you think,” said DiZoglio. “When you see things happening in the world and you get frustrated by it and it bothers you, say something. Do something. Your leaders need to hear from you. Otherwise, we are destined to repeat the same thing that we have been repeating throughout history. You are the changemakers and your voices count. You are not too young to make a difference. Go out there and change the world.”

After DiZoglio concluded her presentation, she was given a round of applause.