High school students get a taste of elected office
by Hawkins Teague
Mar 14, 2007 | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Although it’s challenging to get most tax-paying citizens interested in attending public meetings, let alone teenagers, five Trigg County High School students have been doing just that since the beginning of 2007. The five students, all but one juniors, have been serving as nonvoting members of the Cadiz City Council, Trigg County Fiscal Court and the high school’s site-based decision-making council.

Skye Darnell, the lone senior in the group of students, and Alex Jenkins attend city council meetings. A.J. Bridges and Matt Ledford sit in on fiscal court and Samantha Ladd goes to site-based councils. Sitting next her at the SBDM council meetings is Donna Kranz, who helped make the student participation in the government entities happen.

Kranz said she didn’t actually come up with the idea on her own, but that Cadiz City Councilmember Donna McNichols called her before the November election and pitched the idea as a way to teach students about government. Kranz organized a mock election in which the whole school could vote. Not only were the actual Trigg County and state candidates included, but so were the students who wanted to run. The students listed their first preferences for the body they wanted to be with. Kranz asked Marc Terrell and Stan Humphries, the judge-executive candidates, if they would follow Mayor Lyn Bailey’s lead and allow students to serve as nonvoting members on the fiscal court and they both agreed. She also asked Principal Chad Pruitt if he would be fine with letting a student sit on the SBDM council meetings and he said yes as well.

Originally, there was only supposed student on each government body, but the votes were so close that Kranz allowed two students to serve on the city council and fiscal courts. For their campaigns, they had to write a speech and videotape themselves reading it so that the entire student body could watch it before voting.

Kranz said the arrangement is going very well and that she got a call from a teacher in Hopkinsville wanting advice on getting something similar started in Christian County. She said the students are very engaged and interested in what is happening in their community. She also said it has caused the students to look at themselves in a different way and realize that people might find value in their opinions and actions. She used Bridges as an example, saying that he takes notes at the meetings and it might have spurred an interest in writing for The Cadiz Record.

“It’s given him confidence and has made him realize that people care about what he has to say and what he does,” she said.

McNichols said she had the idea to get high school students involved because she was impressed by some of the county’s youth service groups in the past.

“I was very impressed with the leadership they showed and the ideas they had,” she said. “They are tomorrow’s leaders and it’s great that they’re interested in what’s happening in their town.”

McNichols called Jenkins and Darnell a “tremendous plus” for the city council and said that they always listen intently and follow and read along with everyone that occurs in the meeting. Sometimes they ask her about why things are done a certain way, which can cause the council members to see their actions from an outsider’s point of view.

“What great city council people they will be,” she said.

The students appear to enjoy the respect they have gotten from their adult counterparts. Darnell and Jenkins said sitting with the council at meetings makes them feel like they have some authority because the members respect them and listen to their opinions and questions. Darnell said the meetings have taught her a lot about how government works in her hometown.

For the rest of this story, read this week's Cadiz Record.
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