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Taking over for a day
High schoolers seize reins of power during annual Youth in Government Day
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