OSWEGO, NY – They came in as students. But, they left as teachers.
About three dozen students took part in the annual County Government Day.
Paul A. Forestiere II, executive director of Oswego County’s Cornell Cooperative Extension, welcomed everyone to the legislature meeting.
“This is a wonderful day every year; we absolutely love doing it and I know the legislators do, too,” he said.
He said it was his favorite day of the year.
The students, representing schools from all across the county, sat with the legislators and took an active role in the meeting.
“There is one requirement,” Forestiere told the students. “That one requirement is not that you just sit here and learn.
You’re here today to learn and then share your experience. Teach others; take it back to your schools. Don’t be shy, tell them what you learned. Your schools sent you here because they couldn’t send everybody. So it’s up to you to be an ambassador and go back and tell everyone what it is that you’ve learned here.”
If someone tells them, “Don’t bother calling 9-1-1 for help because no one will come.” The students can correct them, he said. They toured the 9-1-1 Center and talked to the people there. They know how it operates.
“You have first-hand knowledge of what your (county) government is all about and what it does,” he said.
The students said they appreciated the chance to sit in on an actual county meeting and vote for their legislators.
They had a busy day. Prior to the legislature meeting, they had toured the 9-1-1 Center. And they also met with a judge.
The students conducted a mock debate. It regarded whether to have armed school resource offices in school, Shane Broadwell, chair of the legislature said.
“It was a very lively debate,” he said. “All of the students were involved. This is one of the most active groups we’ve ever had.”
Chairman Broadwell thanked the legislators for their work and the students for their participation.
“You do a great job. This legislature sincerely appreciates what you do,” he said.
“We’ve had a great day. We really have a good group of students this year,” Forestiere told the legislature. “I want to thank everyone that made this happen today. We extend our heart-felt thanks. Not only for your financial support but for programs like this that means so much in the life a child. You’re developing the next generation of good citizens for Oswego County.”
He also thanked the legislators for coming to other Cooperative Extension programs. “You are there. You come to the programs, you want to be part of them,” he said. “We could not do this without you.
Oswego County Youth Government Day is a way to give young people an opportunity to learn first-hand about American government, he told Oswego County Today.
He thanked the county and his staff for all the hard work that went into making the day possible.
As the young country of America began to move west, Cooperative Extension was born. Professors from Cornell would take trains to the new frontier and help settlers solve problems.
Eventually, the cost of the program became problematic.
The Land Grant University System was put into place. Every state in America has a university or college that functions as a “Land Grant” site, Forestiere told the student “legislators.”
“Here in New York it’s Cornell; in New Jersey it’s Rutgers … University of Michigan, University of Florida. All of those universities have a responsibility to provide information to the people of their state so that their questions can be answered,” he said. “Abraham Lincoln is the father of the Land Grant University System. He signed the law that changed America.”
The professors stayed at the university, did the research and passed their findings along to a group of people who went out and taught others.
That group was Cooperative Extension.
“It’s our job to take information, information that we know is tried and true, and share it,” he said. “How big do you think Cooperative Extension is today?”
“Pretty big,” one student said. “Nation-wide,” another said.
The organization has expanded into some other countries. But, in the United States “There is a Cooperative Extension in every county,” Forestiere said.
“My favorite part was participating in the mock debate,” ‘student legislator’ Michael Fierro said. “I was on the ‘yes’ side and we did win.”
He will share his experience when he returns to school.
“Cooperative Extension’s mission is to educate the masses; education that takes place outside of the classroom. That’s what we do; we educate, real world, real time,” Forestiere said. “This is what it’s all about.”