LAKE COMO/BELMAR, NJ — For 62 Belmar Elementary School students, the municipal offices in both Lake Como and Belmar became their classroom during Youth Government Day.
They got an up-close look at the inner workings of local government on November 13, as municipal officials in both towns offered their wealth of knowledge for this hands-on civics lesson.
“This program promotes pride in their community and civic participation,” said social studies teacher Sean McDonald, the program’s moderator. “It empowers students by giving them an opportunity to learn how communities are built, and the critical role that individuals play in this process.”
To participate in the day, students had already done their homework. The sixth- through eighth-graders first selected positions in government they wanted to learn about, including judge, chief of police, borough clerk, municipal attorney, among others. For those choosing elected positions, they went through the entire process of running for office, including campaigning, giving speeches and culminating with a mock election.
Youth Government Day became their reward for the work. “Students met with various township employees who generously donated their time to provide tours of the town and their facilities, as well as review their job responsibilities,” McDonald said. “In addition, Lake Como Mayor Brian Wilton, Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty and town council members also spoke with the students about their duties and various procedures of the council.”
Some participating students remained at Belmar Elementary School where they shadowed administrators and faculty members for the morning.
In Lake Como, 18 students were assigned a special task so they could put into action their lesson of the day. “After learning the ins and outs and day-to-day operations of local government, we had them do a project where the designed our holiday decorations,” Deputy Borough Clerk Amy Boney said. “The students worked in teams of three and were given a budget and a list of decorations we needed for borough hall.”
There is one more benefit for these students. They will be “sworn in” at upcoming council meetings in Belmar and Lake Como. And they will be coming prepared, bringing their ideas to each governing body’s table.
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