High school students learn about local government by shadowing office-holders

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VANDALIA, Ohio (WDTN) – On Tuesday dozens of Vandalia-Butler High School students got hands-on experience in local government. The students are job shadowing the Vandalia mayor and city council, the Butler Township government, and the Board of Education to learn more about jobs with those organizations. 

The high school students have been learning about local government for weeks, but they say it’s different when they’re the ones sitting in the chair in council chambers. 

Butler High School junior Matthew Penewit is his class’s mock mayor. He says, “You have to have the leadership and the motivation to do this every single day.” 

AP Government students from Butler High School say they learned valuable lessons about the full-time job of local governance after spending the day with the real-life office holders. 

Penewit says, “That’s one of the reasons I’m in AP Gov right now: to learn about my future and what I want to get into. And I really enjoyed this day because this is what I want to do with my life.” 

Penewit won his class’s mock election for mayor and was mentored Tuesday by Vandalia Mayor Richard Herbst. Other students partnered with their counterparts in other city positions.

Rich Hopkins is the City of Vandalia’s Communications Manager. He says, “There are so many sides to an issue, it’s never a black-and-white thing. We did a good job, I think, today of introducing issues where they had to think along that gray scale.” 

In a mock council meeting, the students debated a proposed traffic roundabout and whether the city should allow people to keep chickens in their backyard. City officials even play-acted as concerned citizens who challenged the mock council, which gave the students a new appreciation for the process. 

Penewit says, “Not everybody knows how to work a government, and everybody thinks they know how to work a government. You have to know what you’re doing and be a leader.” 

After the mock council meeting, the students met up with other classes that shadowed other parts of government at the annual banquet. 

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