Citizenship academies: Opening doors to government and politics for youth – Part 6

Once youth have become acquainted with the different roles and offices in county government, host an evening meeting to further engage these officials.

After academy participants complete their introduction to county government, ask them to reflect on what they experienced and how they could apply what they learned. Sometimes youth chose issues from the commissioner meeting and expand on it by adding their own ideas or argue against the issue giving their reasons.

Once the teens have considered what they would like to discuss with the commissioners, they can begin to plan their presentations. Invite several of the commissioners and officials to attend a special evening meeting where they can listen to the youth’s presentations and discuss each issue with the presenters.

In several situations in the past, commissioners have enacted the advice of the youth and made changes based on information presented to them. In other situations, they explain why the idea won’t or can’t work. When this is the case, it is usually because of current laws, policies or the idea is cost prohibitive.

For example, on one occasion a youth proposed that posts bearing house numbers be placed in a standard spot at the driveway by the road. This would allow emergency vehicles to find residences on rural roads in the county easier and quicker. The county agreed and provided marked posts to everyone in the county that wanted one. They were placed in the same spot on each property so emergency vehicles could promptly find them.

In another situation, it had been board policy to pay moving fees for certain employees being hired by the county. They had recently lost an employee who only stayed a short time. The youth convinced them to change the policy and not pay for anyone’s expenses to take a position in the county.

Learning that their voices really made a difference helped these youth become more responsible and respectful of their communities.

For more information about how to start a citizenship academy, see these articles:

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