Students experience real-life civic lessons for a day

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 9, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Sure, Natchez’s high school students have taken civics classes before, learning about elections and the various branches of government.

But most of them had never actually seen a city engineer’s project being planned, sifted through legal documents with the city attorney or fielded citizens’ complaints about abandoned cars.

That is, until Monday &045; when the City of Natchez held its 41st annual Youth in Government Day.

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Each year, dozens of high school students get the chance to follow city employees and elected officials around for a morning, seeing firsthand what their jobs entail.

&uot;The purpose is to try to convey to students just what it takes to run a city,&uot; Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith said following a mock board of aldermen meeting led by the students. &uot;All (of our employees) contribute to running this city, and it’s not an easy task.&uot;

Take Jazzalin McGuire, for example. The Natchez High student learned Monday morning how many bases the recreation department has to cover in a given day.

&uot;You think (that job) is all fun every day, but they cover a lot of important things,&uot; McGuire said. &uot;And it takes a lot of money to do that.&uot;

Philondria Gooden, also a Natchez High student, said shadowing Code Enforcement Officer Artemis Evans opened her eyes, too.

&uot;One thing I learned &045; here’s a lot of businesses that have put banners up illegally,&uot; such as fast food establishments, Gooden said.

Other students learned about how geographic information systems will soon be used in the planning department, about the workings of the convention center, and about what doing legal work for the city entails.

And Michael Winn, who serves as this year’s president of the Mayor’s Youth Council, learned that sitting in the mayor’s seat for a morning is not all fun and games.

&uot;Sometimes people bypass department heads and aldermen and go directly to the mayor when something needs fixing,&uot; Winn said. &uot;The mayor doesn’t just sit in his office all day &045; he works hard.&uot;