Turns out, city politics are more interesting than they might appear at first glance.
Seven Salmon Arm Secondary students from Politics 11 and 12 have been shadowing city council since October as a youth council, attending meetings and giving regular reports to city politicians.
The students took time out this week to talk about their impressions. They are unanimous in expressing enthusiasm for their experience.
“I definitely think we got a lot more out of the course than we expected,” said Lilli Rakose. “I thought it would be fun but I ended up learning more than we expected… It’s a different way of learning, it’s pretty exciting.”
For Ava Wutke and others, one of the more engaging topics city council considered was the hotel to be built near the Jackson campus of SAS.
She said it was controversial and interesting to hear all the pros and cons.
For Katrina Weicker, like several other students, the process for putting in a traffic light near the downtown Tim Hortons restaurant stood out.
“It was interesting how much thought goes into it.”
Gray Simms found it amusing that discussions for a storage shed for a pickle ball court were as lengthy as those for the traffic light.
The money involved in projects surprised Chance McCoshen.
“It was interesting and shocking, the amount of money that goes into snow removal. Or the money it would have taken to put in the storage shed for the pickle ball court. As a teen I don’t think about that – it’s a lot of money.”
Several students referred to all the processes that different applications require.
“There’s so much process and protocol, a lot of the formalities that no one thinks of, that I thought wouldn’t happen for changing a traffic light or closing a road,” said Adam Berls. “The main thing I took away was how very structured it was.”
Others agreed with Allie Landy who noticed how well city council listened to the students.
“I think it’s striking, councillors would pause for the students and acknowledge us.”
Rakose added: “We have come to council and have been seen as not just teenagers; we’ve given our opinions and have been listened to.”
Students also voiced praised for how city council works together, pointing out each person excels at different areas.
“They’re good at deferring to each other – ‘I don’t know this very well but you do,’” Landy pointed out.
Wutke added: “They don’t always agree with things, but they end up coming to the best decision for the people, even if they don’t agree.”
McCoshen concurred: “They’re not afraid to disagree, they’re not afraid of that at all, they’re all very confident…”
Simms noticed how important each one is to the whole: “None of them would be able to do the job that gets done without the other six.”
Eager, approachable and caring were other words the students used to describe the city politicians.
“I think by doing that (letting young people know their opinions matter), they make the town more attractive to a young person,” Landy said.
Teacher Graham Gomme came to council last June to explain how the idea of a youth council came about. He explained that Coun. Tim Lavery, a former educator, approached him about more youth involvement.
Then Lavery and the city’s chief administrative officer, Carl Bannister, came up with the idea of shadowing. Their idea, combined with the flexibility of the school district’s new curriculum, meant it was a go. Gomme termed it “cutting edge.”
Gomme is away, so teacher Dan DeRosa has taken over the course.