Youth in Government Day to focus on civic engagement

On Monday, May 15, the Oakland County Board of Commissioners will host its annual Youth in Government Day, inviting high school students from across the county to meet local elected officials, participate in interactive break-out sessions, and learn about county government and the importance of civic engagement. The event will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Commissioners’ Auditorium at 1200 N. Telegraph Road in Pontiac.

“This event is a great opportunity for area youth to experience first-hand how local government operates and to interact with many of the elected officials that contribute to making Oakland County one of the best run in the country,” said Board Vice Chairman Michael Spisz. “We have worked closely with our partners, including MSU Extension 4-H, the Sheriff’s Office and others, to make this year’s program interactive and engaging. We are confident it will be a fun and educational experience for the students.”

The event will feature some exciting new sessions to get students thinking critically about the role of local government and how it impacts their lives, as well as different ways that they can participate in the political and legislative process to enact positive change in their own communities. They will learn about the importance of being a savvy consumer of media and have the opportunity to participate in a mock debate on a thought-provoking legislative issue. MSU Extension 4-H staff were an essential partner in developing these sessions with the Board, bringing their insight, experience and expertise from the successful
4-H Capitol Experience program to the planning and execution of these new Youth in Government Day sessions.

Tying in to the morning break-out sessions, which involve a mock debate and vote to give the kids a taste of what it is like to be a legislator, attendees will also get insight into the perspective of a candidate. Oakland County Commissioner Dave Woodward will share his firsthand account of his experience of running for office at a young age, and discuss other avenues – outside of holding public office – for young people to get involved with local politics and policy.

“I’m excited about this year’s new programming and looking forward to watching our county students immerse themselves in local government,” said
Woodward, who was elected a state representative at the age of 22. “Some of these students in the room will be future elected leaders – all of them have a role in making our community a better place to live.”

In addition to the civic engagement sessions, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office will provide a presentation featuring their crime and DNA labs, which is sure to interest high school students who have grown up with an abundance of CSI-themed shows, especially those who might be considering a career in law enforcement. Deputy Mike Richardson will also provide a K-9 demonstration with his dog, Blitz.

Attendees will hear from Oakland County elected officials, including Clerk and Register of Deeds Lisa Brown, Treasurer Andy Meisner, and members of the
Oakland County Board of Commissioners. Phil Bertolini, CIO/deputy county executive, will address students on behalf of County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and Paul Walton, chief assistant to Prosecutor Jessica R. Cooper, will speak as the representative of the Prosecutor’s Office. Brown will be on hand to assist eligible students who are interested in registering to vote.

Since the 1970s, the Board of Commissioners has made the goal of Youth in Government Day to help develop young adults into future leaders. Today, this event continues to connect young people with local government, encouraging them to participate in the politics and policies that impact their lives and communities. In 2013, the Board of Commissioners’ Youth in Government Day program received special recognition from the National Association of Counties (NACo) and was one of three model programs featured in the 2014 NACo publication “County News.”

For more information about the event, contact the Board of Commissioners at 248-858-0100 or visit www.oakgov.com/boc.

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