Area students take part in Youth in Government Day

Thursday, May 3, 2012
Jackson Mayor Barbara Lohr gives Jackson High School senior Emilie Davis some advice on being mayor during a mock meeting of the Jackson Board of Alderman Wednesday, May 2. Davis was acting as the mayor during with other students performing the roles of various officials including the chief of police, city attorney and mayor. (ADAM VOGLER)

Around 100 area students were able to see how local governments function Wednesday during the 28th annual Youth in Government Day.

Students representing Jackson, Cape Girardeau, Notre Dame, Saxony Lutheran, Oak Ridge and Delta high schools participated in this year's program in which they job-shadowed elected officials and staff in Jackson, Cape Girardeau and Cape Girardeau County.

In Jackson, Jackson High School senior Emilie Davis served as mayor and presided over a mock board of aldermen meeting in which she and about 20 other students discussed issues facing the city.

The items on the agenda included a motion to close a section of South High Street for American Legion Memorial Day services, requests to have a larger Fourth of July fireworks display at the city park and plans to help fund it with revenue from a beer garden and registration fees from a mud volleyball tournament, complaints about loitering youths made by residents living near Jackson City Park, and using the police department's K-9 unit in schools and on school property.

"I think the most important thing that I learned from this is that everybody has an opinion and every opinion makes a difference," Davis said. She also said she plans to be an active member of her community from now on.

Jackson Mayor Barbara Lohr said she was pleased with the outcome of the mock aldermen meeting.

"I think the kids get a lot of valuable information, but we get a lot of good information, too," she said. "It gives us some ideas, and my goal is to make this event better every year."

Jackson city administrator Jim Roach also was pleased with how the event went.

"I've participated in the Youth in Government program since 1997, and this year was typical regarding the kids," he said. "And typical is good in this case. They're always, I think, very upper-level students, very motivated and inquisitive."

Roach encouraged the mock aldermen to think about how the city departments budget their funds and how they must look at short-term versus long-term solutions, and also struggles and issues that the city has in dealing with them.

"I guess I try to do that because my position is so involved with the money aspects of what we do," Roach said. "Money is always an issue."

Youth in Government Day was started in 1984 by Optimist Club member Tom Meyer, who launched the program to help area students better understand the mechanics of city, county, state and federal government. The annual event is now sponsored by all four of the Optimist clubs in Cape Girardeau County.

Larry Bill, president of the Jackson Optimist Club, ran the program this year.

"It's a real good chance for kids to experience what goes on around them, networking, etc.," Bill said.

Rep. Wayne Wallingford of the 158th House District took over running the event from Meyer in 2010 and co-chaired this year's program with fellow Optimist Mike Ruppel.

"It's always very refreshing to hear what they learned," Wallingford said. "The real beauty of this is the kids enjoy it and learn so much. For example, one year we were talking about a smoking ban. It really made the students think; you could just see the light bulbs coming on, seeing what's involved. Something could be harmful, but some businesses might lose money, and that could mean a loss of jobs. I think they [the students] get a lot out of it."

In Cape Girardeau, students held a mock city government meeting at city hall. Students played the mayor, city council members, clerk, city manager and city attorney, and heard comments from city staff posing as residents on issues facing the city currently or in recent years, such as a smoking ban, conditions of city streets, texting and driving and the number of storm sirens the city has in place.

They passed several resolutions and discussed numerous agenda items.

Staff writer Erin Ragan contributed to this report.

Pertinent address:

101 Court St., Jackson, MO

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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