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The Daily Tar Heel

Students Tag Along With County Officials

The Orange County Board of Commissioners was one of many groups that shared their positions as local authorities with area high school students Tuesday afternoon.

Members of the school's student body government attended the 12th annual "Official for a Day" program to gain an understanding of their local government.

Students spent the morning shadowing a county official and the afternoon in a mock Board of Commissioners meeting.

During the meeting, the students followed an agenda that addressed real issues facing Orange County now and in the past.

"The mock meeting allows us to really get the feel of what local government is about," said Orange High Student Body President Matt Compton. "Since we are addressing actual issues, the experience is even more valuable. We wouldn't get the same feel of how things work without using real issues."

Students that acted as county commissioners led the meeting while other students sat in the audience and presented them with cases for discussion.

The students were paired up with officials, ranging from a law enforcement officer to the town manager.

Animal Control Director John Sauls, who participated in the event, intently watched as his student presented her case about barring the display of exotic animals. "We will jump in and help them if they really need it, but otherwise, the students are on their own to present their cases," Sauls said.

James Hunter, a junior, shadowed the Assistant County Manager and said that the best part of his day was attending a school board meeting because there he got exposure to real issues at hand.

Hunter, who presented a proposal on the bond referendum to the student commissioners, also said the experience showed him that local government is concerned with addressing residents' concerns.

"I learned that you can have a voice in your community if you want," Hunter said.

Junior Candace Irby spent part of her day at the Hillsborough police station with Lt. David Caldwell.

"It was really interesting and exciting for me to ride around with him, hear calls and see what he does every day," Irby said.

Caldwell said the day was a great experience and should be something students take advantage of more often. "What would be great is if at-risk kids who don't know where they're going could see what options are out there and maybe get inspired," he said.

Students and officials agreed that the meeting and the day as a whole was a success. "I learned a lot because of the firsthand experience with the officials," said Lisa Punt, a sophomore who shadowed Purchases Director Pam Jones. "It taught me to express my voice and to support the local government when I am old enough."

Sharron Hinton, from the county manager's office, organized the event and emphasized the importance of participating in local government.

"This experience gives them the chance to express their opinions, realize they do have a voice, that their votes count and they need to get involved."

The City Editor can be reached


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