Teens and preteens got an education in local government when they attended a Local Government 101 seminar at South Country Library, hosted by Jack Nix, young adult librarian. Nix was joined by Nancy Marr from the League of Women Voters.
In the 40-minute lecture, which students received community service credit for attending, Nix spoke about the Suffolk County Legislature and the path that bills take in order to become Suffolk County law. He also spoke about what legislators do and how they help the community.
Nix said his motivation was to teach the group some of the basics of county government, as well as the importance of being involved.
“It’s important for young people to be civically engaged. I worked for the county for a period of time, and so I wanted to bring my knowledge and expertise to help them get involved,” he said.
Nix spotlighted how the young participants could get involved by volunteering, interning, or entering to win various awards and scholarships. He also touched upon the county’s Distinguished Youth Award, a yearlong program that promotes service and achievement in 13- to 18-year-olds.
This message hit home for Danielle Wanerka, a 17-year-old junior. Wanerka said her high school government class opened her eyes to the idea of getting involved in order to affect positive change.
“What I learned the most is if you want to see change, it’s how you can make it happen. You can’t sit around and think others will do it,” she said.
Wanerka said she’s concerned about the environment and the health of our planet. Before enrolling, she wanted to give up, but the class gave her renewed hope that she can work to affect change.
Nix’s hope was that the participants would see that they can share their ideas for the future with local government in a variety of ways.
“I want them to realize how easy it is to be civically involved; how they can speak in meetings and do internships. I want them to know they can be the leaders of tomorrow,” he said.
It looks as though the leaders of tomorrow are getting involved today. This was evidenced by the fact that the young participants were especially interested in any talk about internships. Also, hands shot up when Marr got up to speak about “Students Inside Albany,” a four-day conference organized by the League of Women Voters to teach young people about public policy. Marr handed out applications and told the participants that young people throughout New York will be selected to attend, including one person from the area who will be selected to attend on behalf of the Brookhaven chapter of the League of Women Voters. All of the participants elected to take applications home.
Marr said that seminars like the one Nix put on help youth better understand local government.
“They are the future of America. This helps them understand American history and it helps them understand how government works.”
Nix and Marr both agree that voting is an important civic duty—one that cannot be ignored.
“Voting is the lifeblood of this country. It is the most important thing you can do,” said Nix.
Marr told attendees that they can register to vote as early as age 16, but that they’d have to be 18 to vote. She also stressed the importance of voting.
“Voting is the only way that representatives learn what people need and want,” she said.
For more information about the Students Inside Albany Conference, call Nancy Marr at (631) 730-6556 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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