County officials open offices to students

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Patrice Orum said she expected her tour of the Pike County Courthouse to be boring.

But after a day of moving from office to office and observing the functions of county government, Orum said her mind had been changed - at least a little.

Orum, a senior at Goshen High School, was one of 36 high school students selected to participate in the YMCA's "Youth in Government Day" on Wednesday. Though her perceptions of politics were not completely upended, Orum admitted that, though she frequently stays away from news of political events, many of the governmental offices were interesting.

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That sentiment seemed to be consistent among the students, who mostly found at least one thing to latch onto during their tour. From the Probate Office to the jail to the county Board of Education, the students got a taste of everything and came away with a much improved understanding of how their tax dollars are being spent.

"I had passed by the courthouse several times and I went in once to change my car tag," said Herbert Ward of Pike Liberal Arts. "I learned a lot."

The students were divided up into groups of four and five and each small group went to a different county office. Judge Bill Stone hosted four students in the probate office and allowed them to watch him perform a wedding.

"I do about 160 or so of these a year," Stone told the interested students, who got a lesson in marriage licenses and the intersection of love with government.

"It made me want to cry," said Melody Rodgers, a Pike County High School senior.

Other students experienced sessions in the offices of the county cooperative extension, the

county commission, the district attorney, the revenue commissioner, the sheriff and the superintendent.

County officials from each office were all extremely generous with their time and seemed impressed by the interest of the students.

"Sometimes you get some students in who aren't interested, but these were asking some great questions and their enthusiasm really rubs off on you," said Circuit Clerk Brenda Peacock. "When you get a good group like this, it really sets you on fire."

At least one of the students got a bit of a head start in a profession that has been of personal interest for some time.

"I'm definitely going to go into some kind of law enforcement," said Ken Duncan of Goshen. "On this tour you really got to see how the Sheriff's Department does more than just patrol around. They do everything all the other departments do, plus more."

Duncan said he was already receiving experience by riding along with the Luverne Police Department and hoped to get a degree in law enforcement and become an active part of the drug war.

"I've seen what drugs do and I want to get them off the street," he said.

Brantley Kreis was impressed with the presentation of District Attorney Gary McAliley.

"It's very interesting to learn about what they do," she said.

The students were treated to lunch at The Pines after their tour and the YMCA brought in Alva Lambert, the Executive Director of the State Health Planning and Development Committee, to speak to the students about a life in politics and leadership. He entertained the students with his impressions of Alabama politicians, ranging from Fob James to Howell Heflin and George Wallace.