New council gives students an active voice
Lansing is taking student leadership one step further as the city organizes the first ever Student City Council that will act as a mini version of the real deal.
Mayor Kenneth Bernard visited Lansing High School on Tuesday to talk with interested students about the opportunities involved with being part of the student council. He told them that as flagship members, they would be responsible for deciding the structure of the program.
"It's going to be pretty much what you want to make of it," Bernard said. "The more you get involved the more you'll learn."
He added that the council would take dedication and a commitment on the students' part. He said the Lansing City Council was excited about the prospect and was looking forward to having a young, fresh perspective.
In addition to being part of the Student City Council, the 15 members will be appointed to sit on different boards throughout the city including the parks, library, museum, visitors and economic development boards.
He said there were a lot of things going on within each of the boards right now that made it an exciting time to take part in the program. He added though that it wasn't all going to be City Council projects that the students would work on. He said the city was open to hearing ideas and helping out with events being planned by Leadership at the high school.
"You help us," he said. " And we'll help you."
Ben Doll, advisor of Leadership at LHS, said the idea of forming a Student City Council began last April. He said it was a long process to get to this point but said it has paid off in the end.
He said the goal was to get students involved in Leadership and those not involved to become part of the student council. Every student could benefit from the experience, he said, so he made sure not to leave anyone out who showed interest.
There is a point, Doll said, when students need to start taking on more responsibility because that is what life will be like for them when they leave high school. He said the student council would give students a taste of that responsibility and allow them to learn about something that is sure to affect them in the future.
Just like in the Leadership council at the school, the Student City Council will be controlled by the students themselves. The students will have their own meetings and then take their discussions and ideas to City Council meetings. Doll said this was important not only for the lessons in responsibility but, from his experience, the work generated will be of higher quality when they receive guidance from within their peers.
Brittany Shelton, 17, is no stranger to a having a leadership role. As president of the senior class of LHS, Shelton is responsible for organizing many events that take place throughout the year.
But she said while she has enjoyed being so involved in her school community, she doesn't feel she's done enough for the Lansing community as a whole. That's why she wanted to be part of the Student City Council.
Shelton will act as the executive of the student council and will be the liaison between the students and actual City Council members. Shelton said she looked forward to being able to watch how other leaders of the community work and then take those skills back to members of Leadership at the high school.
Katie Welks, 17, decided to join the Student City Council because she wanted the opportunity to get involved on the board of the Lansing Public Library. The LHS junior knows she wants to be a librarian when she gets older, and she said she saw the council as a great way to get her foot in the door.
While Welks is not part of Leadership at the high school, she said she hopes this position will help her obtain many of the characteristics involved with a leadership role.
She said what she looks forward to the most is helping with the library's move to a building located across from City Hall on Main Street. Welks spends a lot of her time at the public library and she said she wanted to play a part in making it more accessible to other people in the community.
Eventually her goal is to work at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., but she said everyone's got to start somewhere and for her that might as well be here at home.