Giving Students An Opportunity To Learn About Local Government

Back after two years, Youth in Government Day provided 47 students the chance to participate.

At+the+Loudoun+County+Goverment+Center%2C+students+had+an+opportunity+to+learn+about+how+local+government+operates.

Lilly Cameron

At the Loudoun County Goverment Center, students had an opportunity to learn about how local government operates.

With every district represented among the 47 student attendees, Youth in Government Day gave participants an opportunity to learn about their local government. During the nearly 10 hour event, students met with local government officials, participated in simulations to learn about local government operations, and even attended a board meeting at the end of the day.

Students arrived at Loudoun County Government Center in Leesburg at nine AM Tuesday May 3rd and stayed until 7PM, Since the event was held on a school day, attendees received an excused absence and were encouraged to come as long as they didn’t have any exams to take. “We’ve had to cancel the event the last three years so it’s just so nice to have the students back,” the event’s organizer Ray Walker said.

At nine AM, students arrived and had a complimentary breakfast before moving to the board room to participate in an icebreaker. Afterwards students even got to hear from the county’s Chair at Large, Phyllis J. Randall, on her experience with running for local public office and her motivation for doing so. “Service is the price you pay to live in a free country,” she said.

In the first of two government simulations, students mock-interviewed a staff member as if they were proposing the construction of a new building or program for the county. Students were able to explore the ‘rose, thorns, and buds’ of the hypothetical propositions and use critical thinking to decide if the building would overall help or hurt the community much like how local government officials would. Junior from Dominion High School, Nora Thimmesch said that she hopes to apply team building strategies like “using other people’s opinions and ideas” in future school projects.

Lunch divided the second simulation into two parts, but it was enlightening nonetheless. In the ‘Balancing Act’ activity, students worked with their group to create a county out of legos where they decided things like how many housing units should be built and how many businesses should be in the county in order to balance the county’s output and revenue while also accommodating new changes in each of the four simulation levels.

Since the event was a day-long ordeal, both lunch and dinner was provided for students in the Dulles room where they dined with Chairs of the Board. Randall believes that talking to the youth is one of the most important things she can do for the county, “this is literally my favorite day of the year, I will adjust my schedule, I will cancel trips, I will move things around to be involved in Youth in Government [Day],” Randall said.

In addition to getting to share their thoughts with officials during lunch and dinner, a select few were chosen to act as student supervisors during the Board Meeting at five PM. These students were seated next to their corresponding district supervisor and were able to present their supervisor’s statements and present issues important to them to the Board. “It was a great experience, and I would definitely do it again,” Chair Randall’s student supervisor Claire Cho said.

Thimmesch was also able to observe the board meeting as student supervisor for Algonkian District Supervisor Juli E. Briskman. During the board meeting Thimmesch presented her concerns regarding the amount of bathrooms closed throughout Dominion High School to the Board and ACOY (Advisory COmmision on Youth) where her question shocked some of the Board members. “I’m really happy I brought it up because that’s how people start doing things about it: when you bring it up and question it because they didn’t have any idea about it,” Thimmesch said. 

According to Chair Randall, the issue of closed bathrooms concerns LCPS more than ACOY. Briskman said, however, that Thimmesch’s question was one of the most intriguing to come out of the meeting, “You shouldn’t be shutting everyone out of certain services just because you have a couple bad apples at the school or whatever reason it is,” she said.

“I think it is really, really important to get youth interested in what government in general is, and to make sure that they know their voices matter,” Briskman said.