When high school students are running the show, local government meetings are at least a little more surreal than usual.


"Uh, so you want to give more access for teens to magic markers and spray paint?" Mayor Gokul Veedu incredulously asked a resident giving a comment at the start of a mock city council meeting on Jan. 31.


Veedu and 25 other students from Hesperia, Mojave, Oak Hills and Sultana high schools were taking part in the city of Hesperia's sixth annual Youth in Government Day. Students spent a morning shadowing senior city officials and getting a hands-on look at how a city of 90,000-plus residents operates.


"It is very uncommon for high school students to be exposed to the inner workings of city government and the processes for determining how their community is built, maintained and managed," said Georgia Graham, a management analyst with the city and the organizer of Youth in Government Day. "Youth in Government Day is a great opportunity to show how every resident of Hesperia can have a voice in the way their city is run, and perhaps the students want to be more involved and share this enthusiasm with their parents.


"A secondary benefit, of course, is the hope that the students are taught the value of education," Graham continued, "and how it pays off in order to obtain one of the many varieties of jobs available in the public sector and inspires them to achieve more by pursuing higher education."


After lunch, the day was capped off by a city council meeting with students playing everyone from members of the public to city staffers to council members.


"Each year, we hear the same comments from the kids about how they are fascinated with the job shadowing activity and the mock city council meeting," said Graham. In surveys filled out by the students, many listed shadowing city staffers as their favorite part of their day.


The agenda was a greatest hits version of real city council agendas, and included the consideration of a service animals ordinance, a daytime curfew and graffiti abatement. The students directed staff to draw up an ordinance for them to vote to allow all species of animals to be used as service animals, voted against creating a new daytime curfew and unanimously approved a new graffiti abatement ordinance.


"I expect someone in this room to take the bull by the horns and to become a leader in this community," Mayor Russ Blewett told the students.


2012 Youth in Government Day participants


Awad, Thaoraya Oak Hills High School, Principal planner


Barela, Katarina Hesperia High School, Employee of the Month


Barragan, Adrian Sultana High School, Economic Development director


Barriga, Zenia Sultana High School, Public commenter #4


Bell, Steven Oak Hills High School, Public commenter #1


Bird, Cassie Sultana High School, Council member #2


Bray, Jordan Sultana High School, Mayor pro tem


Breininger, Tia Sultana High School, Public commenter #9


Cruz Cisneros, Marta Hesperia High School, Interim IT manager


Craig, Tiffany Mojave High School, Council member #1


Davis, Bryce Oak Hills High School, City attorney


Duarte, Gabriela Oak Hills High School, Council member #3


Folk, Ryan Hesperia High School, City manager


Folk, Robert Hesperia High School, Public commenter #8


Gipson, Cassidy Sultana High School, Public commenter #7


Gonzalez, Natalie Oak Hills High School, Assistant city clerk


Mendoza, Richard Hesperia High School, City engineer


Pearson, Mikayla Hesperia High School, Director of human resources


Rodriguez, Adrian Hesperia High School, Public commenter #2


Shelton, Cody Mojave High School, Public works manager


Spaeth, Bryan Sultana High School, Police captain


Tapia, Naomi Hesperia High School, Director of development services


Taylor, Tasha Sultana High School, Animal control supervisor


Valadez, Francisco Oak Hills High School, Public commenter #3


Veedu, Gokul Hesperia High School, Mayor


Watkins, Genelle Oak Hills High School, Public commenter #5