High-achieving students take on city government

Students from nine local high schools took part in this year’s Youth in Government Program.

Students from nine local high schools took part in this year’s Youth in Government program.

LANCASTER – About 30 students from various local high schools were all business Wednesday morning as they brainstormed ideas on how to redesign and develop 65 acres of land in Lancaster.

The task was part of Lancaster’s 23rd annual Youth in Government program, a month-long program that offers high-achieving local high school students the opportunity to work with City employees and department heads to expand their knowledge of local government.

“We’re hoping they get an appreciation for what goes into the public sector, of the realities of working for the government,” said Mike Rosa of Lancaster’s Parks, Recreation and Arts Department.

Youth in Government 2013 2

The Parks, Recreation and Arts department hosts the program and facilitates the month-long interaction between students and their City counterparts.

“They learn the process of how things are done here at the city,” said coordinator Melissa Varela. “What goes into a council meeting, what goes into city projects, and how everyone plays a key role in making these decisions.”

A highlight of the Youth in Government program is when the students break into groups to tackle a simulated community development project.

For this year’s project, the groups were tasked with studying the feasibility of redesigning/developing 65 acres of land on the east and west side of 15th Street West, between Avenue K and Avenue J-8.

The students were to consider several factors, including budget, street design, walkability, recreation, signage, tax base for the city, and housing.

The students’ ideas will be presented during a mock city council meeting next week, facilitated entirely by the students.

Youth in Government 2013 1“They have to sell their design to the city and citizens, just like what would happen at a regular council meeting,” Rosa said.

Desert Christian High School senior Joshua Kay said it was his second time taking part in the Youth in Government program.

“It’s such a great program that I just wanted more,” Kay said.

Eastside High School senior Luis Haro has taken part in the Youth in Government program for the past three years and now envisions a career in local government.

“This is the opportunity to follow the city leaders, the people who pass the policies, so I wouldn’t want to miss out on this,” Haro said. “It’s really a great program.”