CEDAR RAPIDS — High school students played the role Wednesday of local elected officials making policy decisions as part of a county-run workshop.
About 50 students from Linn County high schools were invited to the second Future Leaders of Linn County event. They participated in a daylong session that included attending a Board of Supervisors meeting, participating in sessions with county staff and running a make-believe board meeting.
During the mock meeting, the student supervisors debated how to address conservation, planning and development and criminal justice issues in the county.
The only agenda item not unanimously passed by the mock student board — led by real-life Supervisor Stacey Walker — was a special-use permit allowing a faith-based treatment and recovery center to be built on a farm across the street from a neighborhood.
The students asked questions about safety of residents and the number of employees working at the facility, and heard public comments from their peers and presentations from county staff. Ultimately, the permit failed 3-4.
Grace Kiboko, a 16-year-old junior at Linn-Mar attending as an Iowa BIG student, sat on the mock board. She said she was thinking of the entire community when voting to approve the permit.
Walker said the Future Leaders program and the county’s internships are efforts to get young people working or serving in government.
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“And the idea is between putting government literally in the face and in the hands of high-achieving high school students, giving college students a chance to have meaningful learning experiences where they get paid over the summer working in public service, can we start to create an on-ramp into public service for our best and our brightest in the communities?” Walker asked. “My biggest fear in government is that our best and our brightest will turn away from careers in public service.”
Local government issues seemed to sparked the attention of Kiboko. She said she was interested in the event because local government controls everyday issues such as potholes and fireworks regulations.
“Those things are things that we face in local government and I don’t think that people focus on those things because all they’re focusing on is president and governor and senator, which are great things to focus on. But at the end of the day, local government is really where it happens,” Kiboko said.
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