A civic affair: GRC students get first-hand look at local government

Published 12:07 pm Thursday, March 30, 2023

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Civic responsibility is a duty that many feel compelled by as they get older.

On Tuesday, George Rogers Clark High School students who comprise Superintendent Dustin Howard’s Advisory Council were present to learn more and understand how local government works.

Visiting different local government and civic organizations throughout Winchester, students were provided with an education and an opportunity to get various questions answered.

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“They’re learning about government today. They came prepared with a list of questions of things that they had concerns [about] as students, like infrastructure [and] what recreational opportunities we have”, said Winchester Mayor JoEllen Reed. “We’ve had great people talking with them today.”

Collaboration to help set up the event took place with Superintendent Howard, Mayor Reed, and Deputy City Manager Dianna Layne, who played an instrumental role in its success.

Approximately 20 students started their day by being introduced to Mayor Reed and Clark County Judge-Executive Les Yates, who helped explain the relationship between the Mayor’s office, City Manager, Chamber and City Commissioners, as well as Judge-Executive and Magistrates.

Later, they visited Jeff Lewis, Director of Winchester-Clark County Parks and Recreation, and Winchester-Clark County Industrial Authority Executive Director Brad Sowden.

Thus, they learned about local recreational spots and ongoing business growth.

Later, City Manager Mike Flynn talked with the students about safety and infrastructure throughout the city and current projects in play.

For further insight, students were allowed to walk to the Town Branch Stream Restoration Project site.

Furthermore, Chief James Hall and other staff from the Winchester Police Department demonstrated how specific technology gets used to improve safety.

Students also were treated to an unexpected yet valuable experience.

“We took them over and showed them our new communication center. They got to actually be in there as a live 911 call came through, and I think it kind of was an eye-opener for them to see what we do in the police department,” said Chief Hall. “What they see on TV is a whole lot different than what real-life police work is.”

For lunch at City Hall, students were treated to Jimmy John sandwiches, chips, soda and more.

However, the afternoon would not end without them having an opportunity to ask questions to Mayor Reed and Chief Hall, with Layne and City Commissioner Kitty Strode also present.

One student, junior Zack Ross, mentioned his recreational interests.

“I honestly love roller skating,” he said. “I really like the idea of having opportunities like that.”

Another student, senior Barbara Sheehan, brought up the Clark County Public Library.

“Our public library has phenomenal programs but I feel like a lot of the general community just is unaware,” she said. “I feel like we’re kind of neglecting how much our library has.”

Issues such as school safety and more also came to the forefront of discussion.

Addressing the students’ concerns, Mayor Reed reiterated that and explained – often in detail – that much was taking place to develop opportunities, with continual hope going forward.

She also mentioned that youth should feel that their voice is valuable.

“Being a young person does not mean that you don’t have good ideas,” Reed said. “Often, your ideas are the best.”

It is something that Superintendent Howard hopes students will continue moving forward with.

“Education is not just about reading, math, and writing. It’s about learning how to be great citizens and [a] part of our process,” Howard said. “[We’re] just trying to give them a birds-eye view of how it really works.”