Young Leaders: Students embrace civics, history through ‘Mayor for a Day’ program
Published 3:00 am Wednesday, March 9, 2016
For Irene Park, learning about the intricacies of city government proved an eye-opening experience on Tuesday.
“It’s been a really interesting experience,” she said, as she sat in the mayor’s seat inside the Troy City Council chambers. “It’s really interesting to see how everything is planned out in an orderly fashion and to see how each person helps or contributes to the work (of the government).
Park, an eighth-grade student at Charles Henderson Middle School, had the honor of serving as Mayor for the Day after winning an essay contest. She was joined by six of her peers: Scott Taylor Renfroe, Sophie Hollis, JD Wilson and Morgan Bundy for Pike Liberal Arts School and Anna Robinson and John Baxley Sanders from Charles Henderson Middle School.
Being in the council chambers was a first for all the students on Tuesday, and as they sat in chairs reserved for the elected council members they reflected on the experience.
“The most surprising part of the day has been learning about the history of the Square,” Sanders said, drawing agreement from most of the other council members.
The day’s activities included orientation and history lessons about the City of Troy; a session on servant leadership and community involvement at Troy University; work sessions; lunch with the mayor and council members; and a walking tour of historic downtown Troy.
“I had no idea about all that history,” said Wilson.
And like his peers, Wilson learned not only about history but also about civics and government.
The student leaders were tasked with working together to draft a resolution to present to the Troy City Council during its regular meeting at 5 p.m. And while their winning essays touched on a wide range of critical concerns for the city, they settled on one common concern for their resolution: traffic conditions on residential streets, particularly as relates to speeding and the dangers that poses to residents.
“They blow through stop signs in my neighborhood all the time,” said Renfroe.
The student leaders proposed the creation of a Neighborhood Traffic Management Program incorporating education, enforcement and engineering.
In an effort to reduce vehicular speeding on local neighborhood streets as well as preserve and enhance pedestrian and bicycle access, the students recommended that the city officials establish neighborhood traffic watch groups; authorize city police to provide extra patrols in neighborhoods experience problems with traffic management; and seek grant funding to pay for the program.
The mayor and council members praised their proposal.
“I think there are a lot of residents in my district, particularly on Spradley Drive, who would like to see something done about the traffic and speeding,” said Marcus Paramore, District 3 councilman.
Mayor Jason Reeves said the concerns about traffic and speeding are timely. “The resolution they passed is timely,” he said. “And I would just say this to people: slow down, brake, wear your seat belt and pay attention as you’re driving.”
Reeves went on to praise the students who had participated in the program.
“I always feel really proud of our future generation when we have these students here,” he said. “I’m just really proud of them and want to congratulate and thank their parents and grandparents.”
Council President Johnny Witherington echoed the praise. “When I sit here today and I look out and see their parents, who I remember when they were born, I’m just so proud of you for raising your children so well.”