L-W North students receive firsthand look at village government

Four Lincoln-Way North High School students received a firsthand look at village government recently, shadowing Tinley Park officials and participating in a mock village board meeting.

Four Lincoln-Way North High School students received a firsthand look at village government recently, shadowing Tinley Park officials and participating in a mock village board meeting.

“I got to see plans for a new animal hospital on 159th Street as well as a new bank and three stores in the shopping center around Target,” said Lincoln-Way North junior Fredeurika Toussaint, who participated in a Youth in Government program organized by the Village of Tinley Park.

She spent several hours shadowing employees in the Planning and Zoning department over a two-week period, watching them create computer-generated graphics and designs and learning how the Planning Department works with the Village Board, Plan Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals to review requests for variations, special use permits and rezoning.

“Their roles are important,” said Fredeurika, “and people don’t realize what they do.”

It was a sentiment echoed by classmate Holt who shadowed the village’s Director of Emergency Management.

“I didn’t even know that occupation existed,” he said, “and he plays a big role in our safety.

“There are a lot of people working behind the scenes that you never see,” he added.

Every year, the Village of Tinley Park invites students from Lincoln-Way North, Andrew and Tinley Park high schools to shadow employees and participate in a mock village board meeting.

This year, North sent Fredeurika as well as junior Holt Erikson and seniors Emily Ruzevich and Tyler Sucharzewski to participate in the learning opportunity.

“Since so much of our political discourse is done on a local level, it is essential for our youth to learn about the vital importance of our nation's municipal governments,” said Lincoln-Way North social science teacher Patrick Leonard.

He jumped at the chance to send students to the Youth in Government program when village officials approached school administrators earlier this year.

“Through their participation in the Youth in Government program, students gain a first-hand understanding about the way their village government works,” he added.

Students were selected for participation based on their grades, character and residency. All four live in Tinley Park.

“I was really excited when Mr. Leonard asked if I would be interested in participating,” said Tyler. “I thought this was the coolest thing ever.”

Tyler was paired with Village Clerk Pat Rea who invited the high school senior to join him at a Veterans Day ceremony and train station dedication on 80th Avenue followed by lunch.

“It was pretty cool,” said Tyler. “Meeting with the Village Clerk is pretty exciting stuff.”

Emily, who met with the village’s police chief and shadowed a Public Safety trustee over the two-week period, said she enjoyed learning more about local government and its inner workings.

“I knew a lot about the federal government and state government,” she added, “but I didn't know much about local government. It was nice to learn about things close to home.”

During her visit to Village Hall, Emily was taken on a tour of the fire department as well as the village’s 911 call center.

“It was a fun experience,” said Emily. “I don’t think I want to make it a career, but I admire the people that do.”

The visit to Village Hall and participation in a mock village board meeting left Fredeurika eager to learn more.

“I love history,” she said. “Now I’m really interested in how government works…. I hope I get to do this again next year.”

As part of the Youth in Government program, students were challenged to come up with a resolution to take to the mock village board meeting on Nov. 20.

Students decided to propose naming a street after Lincoln-Way North Principal Michael Gardner who is retiring at the end of the 2012-2013 school year.

“Due to his service and commitment to the Lincoln-Way community, we thought it would be nice to have a street named after him,” explained Emily, who proposed the resolution at the mock board meeting.

Students were thrilled when their resolution was accepted by the mock board.

“Everybody voted for it,” said Fredeurika.

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