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Model County Government 2016

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On March 9, 2016, I, along with nearly 70 students from around Chesterfield County, received the opportunity to gain greater insight into local government. As an established program around the district, Model County Government is an educational experience designed for 12th grade government students, sponsored by Youth Planning and Development, Chesterfield County Public Schools, and Cooperative Extension. ¨Through conversations, observations, and actual experiences, our students will develop an appreciation for and a better understanding of local government,¨ expresses a statement sent out by Chesterfield County. Supervisor and Midlothian teacher Mrs. Regina Warriner reviewed applications and chose Midlothian students Amber Arnold, Madeline Dutton, Kimberly Russell, Austin Van Horn, Malia Wing, and me, Neha Kulkarni, all current seniors in AP Government, to represent Midlothian High School in this opportune program.

Though the actual shadowing occurred on the 9th, the program directors first invited us and other Chesterfield County students chosen to attend a School Board Public Engagement session. Focused on the theme of ‘well-being’, each school asked several questions and conferred with school officials and other students, coming up with pro-active, feasible solutions geared towards both mental and physical health. Midlo students particularly enjoyed discussing solutions with Principal Shawn Abel, Dr. Marcus Newsome, and School Board member Dr. Javaid Siddiqi.

The next morning, Model County Government participants ventured off to their respective shadowing sites. “The program is extremely valuable, [offering] real life experience and one-on-one time,” said Mrs. Warriner. “The mentors are really helpful and create an exciting day and tailor it to the students’ interests.” Personally, I had the excellent opportunity to interview Chesterfield County’s administrator, Mr. Jay Stegmaier. Arriving at the Lane B. Ramsey Administration Building, I met with Mr. Lou Lassiter and Mr. Stegmaier and settled into numerous topics, including literature, college, economics, and, of course, government policies and practices. Through such conversations, I gained a unique and captivating perspective on how to remain fiscally responsible and the inherent value of ethics in real world government. Malia Wing, who shadowed Mr. Scott Smedley, Director of Environmental Engineering, said, “My favorite part of the day was getting to see the sites of some of the projects that the Department of Environmental Engineering is working on. One of them is in the community I live in, and it was really neat to see and learn about the work they are doing! After lunch and a short break, the day ended with a Board of Supervisors meeting; sitting next to Mr. Stegmaier, I enjoyed being able to ask questions to the presenters directly, gaining a better understanding of some of the programs that affect the community in numerous ways.

Overall, the day was immensely successful. “When students see the actual responsibilities of local gov , they can see the impact in their own lives, and it empowers students to be more civically responsible,” said Mrs. Warriner. My incredible opportunity has led me to seriously consider a career in government. At the very least, Model County Government gave me a fascinating perspective into the facets of the local government and the hard work that officials do to impact the lives of every citizen in so many ways.