Students get firsthand look at Orland Park government
By Nikki Arseneau Correspondent May 24, 2012 2:06PM
Pictured (from left) are students Charlie Kane and Matt Hardt; Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin; and students Nicole Al-Khouri and Stephanie Garoufalis. | Nikki Arseneau~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 2, 2012 9:52AM
A snap shot of the future? Perhaps.
A learning experience for students? Definitely.
Seventeen junior high school students traded seats with government officials in Orland Park on Monday night to lead a mock village board meeting.
It was all for Student Government Day, something the village hasn’t hosted in years.
Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin said the village wanted an exciting way to celebrate its 120th birthday. Officials thought it would be fun to bring back Student Government Day and have the “next generation of leaders” get an inside look at village government.
“The whole process is a learning process that they all came away with a better understanding of what is going on,” McLaughlin said.
The meeting, with a full agenda, lasted about 45 minutes. The students, from Jerling Junior High, Century Junior High, Central Middle, Orland Junior High and St. Michael schools, came professionally dressed for the occasion and voted on real agenda items that at one time had been voted on by the actual trustees.
Matt Hardt, a seventh-grade student from Jerling Junior High School, played the role of mayor.
“It was really exciting, and I had a lot of fun,” said Hardt after the meeting.
Seventh-grader Nicole Al-Khouri from St. Michael School agreed.
“I was very nervous, but now I’m relieved,” Al-Khouri said. “I’m very happy I did this and that I got accepted to do this.”
Al-Khouri, who played the role of village attorney, said she might become a lawyer in the future.
The students were chosen for their roles based on an essay they wrote about what they liked best about eight different aspects of village government.
In her winning essay, Nicole Al-Khouri said: “We have camps, workshops, health and fitness … and programs for individuals with special needs. Orland Park is huge on programs.”
Al-Khouri’s mother beamed with pride as she watched her daughter take part in the meeting.
“I’m just very proud,” Mary Al-Khouri said. “I think she did excellent.”
The crowd got a laugh during the meeting when, at one point, all the “trustees” voted against the 2012 budget.
“(We’ll have to) bring it back at the next meeting,” Hardt said into the microphone.
All the students received a standing ovation from the crowd and a certificate recognizing their participation at the conclusion of the meeting.