HACKENSACK, NJ -- Council chambers were filled with some new faces on Friday morning as Hackensack High School seniors participated in the annual Youth in Government Day.
Teenaged students occupied the seats usually filled by Hackensack’s Mayor and Council to listen to the concerns of their constituents and vote on the adoption of various ordinances. The event included the students shadowing government officials to witness what a day in their lives is like.
“I think it was really successful and they all did a great job,” said Mayor John Labrosse. “The best part is doing the meeting. We all get to role play a little with them. It’s exciting for us and it’s exciting for the kids. I’m glad we’ve kept up with this tradition.”
Deputy Mayor David Sims recalled his past experience with Youth in Government Day as a student.
“I remember doing this in 1980 and it was great to see it again,” Sims said.
Deputy Mayor Kathy Canestrino said the day could serve as possible inspiration for students to seek office later in life.
“It’s important that we have young people interested in the process more, as it could drive them to become more civic-minded,” Canestrino said. “This gives them an insight into how government really works.”
One such student was senior Mackenzie Carroll, who played the role of mayor during the proceedings. As a member of student council, Carroll attends Board of Education meetings, where she presents a report but being the center of attention was a new experience for her. Carroll said she was encouraged to take part by Hackensack High School Assistant Principal Anibal Galiana and is very glad she did.
“It was great. I had a lot of fun,” said Carroll who wants to major in political science. “I’d like to start in local government and then move on to federal. Dream big.”
Rosemary Marks, acting superintendent of Hackensack schools, had high praise for the participants. “I’m always so proud,” she said. “These student represent the best of what Hackensack has to offer.”
Assistant Superintendent of Schools Andrea Oates-Parchment predicted big things for the future of the students involved.
“When I was watching, all I could think is we should take a picture because they may be sitting on a council again sometime in the future,” she said.
Hackensack City Manager Ted Ehrenburg congratulated the participants and said spirited debate is “what makes America great” but stressed that those who do not attend municipal meetings and do not involve themselves in local politics will regret it.
“We get the government we deserve.”