Young politicians begin 'jobs'
Published: Monday, November 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, October 31, 2004 at 11:09 p.m.
They may be small, but they have big plans for their local government.
Five fifth-graders from Archer Community School were recently sworn in by Circuit Judge Robert Roundtree Jr., as the Archer Junior City Commission.
Ryan Estevez, Amanda Jansen, Casey Locke, Joel Petersen and Phedra Smith were all elected by their classmates after several weeks of campaigning.
They held their first formal meeting at the Archer City Hall just before the regular commission meeting, and were on hand as City Manager Scott Lippmann read a proclamation declaring Oct. 25, 2004 Archer Junior City Commission Day.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the students," said Sharon Ketts, a fifth-grade teacher at Archer Community School and the coordinator of the Junior City Commission program.
"I hope they get a sense of what it is to be part of the political process. It's a profound thing for them to know how local government works."
The new junior commissioners will meet regularly throughout the school year, including during formal sessions at City Hall.
They'll serve as liaisons to their adult counterparts on the Archer City Commission, presenting reports on school activities and making requests on behalf of the school and their fellow students.
"Their peers will let them know what the school needs and that will be put in front of the commission," said Archer City Commissioner Laurie Costello. "Hopefully, they can get some things done that their classmates want done."
The young commissioners have already begun discussing their platforms, which include issues ranging from playground space to the FCAT.
Phedra Smith, who was chosen by her fellow commissioners as mayor of the Junior City Commission, says she wants to make sure there's enough money for FCAT tutoring after school
"It would be a sad thing to see kids fail the FCAT because they don't have tutoring," she said. "We're waiting on more information to see if we'll be able to have it, and maybe the commission can help us with that."
At least two of the new junior commissioners are following in the footsteps of older brothers and sisters who have served on previous commissions.
Principal Leon Henderson says he's unaware of any other program like this one in the state.
"I thought it would be really interesting to get to know more about what happens," said Locke. "I hope that we can make our school even better."
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