LYNN — Some of the city’s future leaders were exposed to the inner workings of city government on Tuesday.
As part of the city’s annual Student Government Day at City Hall, high school students participated in interactive mock City Council and School Committee meetings, with some even assuming the roles of council or committee members.
“I think it’s really exciting to see seniors from all the high schools in the city come together, choose to be a part of the Student Government Day and get an opportunity to see what it means to be involved in government and how connected it is to our community,” said Mayor Thomas M. McGee. “I’ve come to these over the years and seen the young people come through as high school students and then become leaders in our community going forward.”
Participating schools included Lynn Classical High School, Lynn English High School, Lynn Vocational Technical Institute, St. Mary’s High School, KIPP Academy and Fecteau-Leary Junior/Senior High School.
McGee said the event’s format was changed this year to make it more interactive. In past years, students would shadow different department heads or city employees, but this year was more about getting them engaged.
Following the mock meetings, there was a question and answer session with students and department heads, where the teens learned more about the business of running a city.
“This is a lot of fun,” said Superintendent Dr. Catherine C. Latham. “(One day) one of you will be standing up here taking my place or one of the elected officials’ place.”
The participants were split into two groups, which alternated between attending a council or school committee meeting. Students attending the school committee meeting discussed school safety.
One of the topics broached was how students feel about having K9s come into the schools, sniffing and searching lockers for drugs or weapons. They were asked whether they thought it was intrusive or a nice safety measure.
Tora Ueland, a Lynn English High School student, who took on the role of a school committee member, said she likes having the dogs come in because it’s a more efficient way to make sure the school is safe. She said she feels more comfortable when there are dogs.
On the other hand, Jonathan Mejia, who also took on the role of a school committee member, said officials need to be careful about the militarization of the city’s schools. He said school is typically a safe place for him. At home, he said, as a person of color, he’s afraid of walking down the street every day, thinking that a police officer might shoot him.
Mejia, a KIPP Academy student, said the idea of adding police officers and K9 units in his school scares him. Instead of adding more police officers or dogs, he suggested adding more counselors or people who could help curb potential problems.