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High school seniors listen, learn at NLC's legislative conference; trip part of city's 'Students in Government' program.

For the third year in a row, students from Osseo High School in Maple Grove, Minn., joined their city's elected officials and participated in NLC's Congressional City Conference last month.

For the two students--Kim Schwartz and Michelle Franta-attending the NLC event was a natural extension of their experience of serving on a city board or commission in the city of Maple Grove. Schwartz and Franta are a part of a city/school program that provides real-world city government experience to some 60 high school seniors each year as a part of a senior government class.

How the Program Works

At the beginning of each school term, teachers give students the opportunity to gain extra classroom credits by participating in a city government activity. Students may join in the activities of the city council or in any of nine city boards and commissions with functional responsibilities, such as planning, parks, economic development, transit, lake quality, and long range improvements.

Students sign up for the two-three slots that are available on each board. When requests outnumber slots, a lottery is held to pick the students that will serve.

Osseo High School has a trimester class system of approximately 13 weeks, so students serve for three months and attend from three to eight meetings, depending on the number of times the committee they are on meets.

Once the school provides the names of the students for the trimester, the city prepares name plates for each student and makes sure the staff person responsible for a board or commission provides a short orientation for the students on how the board operates. Each student receives, and is expected to read, the assigned committee's full agenda packet.

A highlight each year of the Students in Government effort is the opportunity for two students to join the mayor and city council in Washington, D.C., for NLC's Congressional City Conference. Because of conflicting schedules, not every student seeks this opportunity. But each year approximately ten students apply to attend the NLC meeting. The two students selected gain a first hand feel for how the roles of the federal government and local government differ.

The students' trips are paid from private funds raised by the city from local businesses and non-profit organizations. The trip for each student costs approximately $1,000, including airfare, hotel and conference registration for the five day visit.

An Effective Educational Program

The goal of the Students in Government program is to expose students to the opportunities for involvement in city government. It seeks to show students that government is made up of local citizens--just like themselves and their parents--who care about their community.

The program meets these goals wonderfully and is one of the simplest and most effective educational programs in the city.

Jon Elam is city administrator of Maple Grove, Minn. For more information on the program, contact Elam at (612) 494-6001 or write P.O. Box 1180, Maple Grove MN 55311.
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Title Annotation:National League of Cities; Maple Grove, MN
Author:Elam, Jon
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Apr 1, 1996
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