Students get hands-on lesson in Frankfort government
BY GINGER BRASHINGER Correspondent April 7, 2014 9:10PM
Pictured are the Student Government Day students, village officials and employees and event coordinators. | Ginger Brashinger~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 9, 2014 6:23AM
Hickory Creek Middle School eighth-graders spent Monday learning what it takes to be a “public servant” during Frankfort School District 157C’s annual Student Government Day.
Twenty students applied for the opportunity to participate, said Linda Thompson, the district’s gifted program teacher and event coordinator.
Thompson said students who want a place on the student government team often are those who already have “a lot of interest in serving their community because that’s what government is all about.
“I’m looking for people who have an interest in their community government, kids who will say, ‘This is pretty cool,’ ” Thompson said. “They are probably leaders in other groups.”
Once chosen, the students meet with Thompson and village Trustee Cindy Heath, the village’s coordinator of the event, in two separate hour-and-a-half lunch sessions in which they learn about village government.
“It’s limited knowledge, but it’s a start,” Thompson said.
The students research village government and various village issues, discuss them and create an agenda for a mock village board meeting held after a full day of visiting village facilities. Thompson said the students talk with village officials and department heads and take tours of the fire and police departments, the village administrative office, the regional wastewater treatment plant and the utilities/public works facility.
“The whole village ... pauses to honor these students, and I think that’s really special that they put the time and effort into it,” Thompson said.
Students are chosen for specific positions after meeting with Thompson in a 15- to 20-minute before-school session to discuss each student’s preference of government or service position.
Applicants are chosen to be the counterparts of the mayor, police chief, fire chief, village administrator, wastewater treatment plant director, utilities/public works director and village trustees.
“One of my most difficult tasks is matching students to position,” Thompson said. “I choose the mayor first. Someone who wants to be mayor must be very flexible and someone who can improvise.”
Mayor-for-a-day Brendon McCray said he “learned a lot of things about the utilities and about the mayor’s job.”
McCray and the other students sat with elected officials and village personnel whom they were modeling during a working lunch.
McCray’s time was spent with Mayor Jim Holland in a discussion of issues McCray and his fellow students researched ahead of time in order to build an agenda for the mock village board meeting.
“I thought it was a really good experience,” McCray said prior to the meeting.
During the meeting in which many village officials and personnel were represented, students discussed issues ranging from snow removal and improvements on the Breidert Green stage to the state concealed-carry law.
Heath, in her 15th year coordinating the event for the village, said the students were very relaxed and prepared for the day.
“It was great,” Heath said. “These kids were so full of questions that it put a smile on everyone’s faces.”