OSWEGO, NY – They came in as students; they left as teachers.
Nearly three dozen students took part Thursday 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.
The Youth Bureau was a partner in the event, he noted.
“It is really a day that gives kids an opportunity to look into their future,” he said.
The 33 students, representing schools from all across the county, sat with the legislators and took an active role in the meeting.
Emberlin Leja and Jeb Atkinson, seventh graders from APW, helped Legislature Chairman Barry Leemann run the meting Thursday afternoon.
“We’re ready to get going,” Jeb said prior to the start of the meeting.
“We’re both from Mr. Leemann’s district and we’re supposed to help him today,” Emberlin added.
“They are doing a good job, a very good job,” the chairman said. “They’re a very enthusiastic group this year, honor roll students.”
The students had a busy day. Prior to the legislature meeting they had toured the 911 Center, visited County Court, and conducted a mock debate.
It regarded the possible promotion and development of offshore oil fields in Lake Ontario within Oswego County’s boundaries.
“The various caucuses, the pros and cons and undecideds prepared very thoroughly. A very lively debate ensued and the conservationists triumphed,” said Legislator Jack Proud of Mexico.
The “vote” was 15 yes and 18 no with one person absent, according to Proud.
All the stuff in the morning was just practice, to get them ready for the legislature meeting, Forestiere told the students.
“After 2 O’clock, no more pretend. It’s going to be a real Oswego County Legislature meeting and you will be helping your legislators deal with real issues impacting Oswego County,” he told the seventh graders. “When you vote then it will be an actual legal vote. You will be a part of Oswego County government.”
There was one special requirement, he continued.
The youngsters couldn’t just sit there and learn; they had to share what they learned, he said.
“That’s right. Teach it to other people, take it back to you classes and share what you learned here today,” Forestiere said. “There’s no way we could have brought all of the seventh grade classes. That is why we brought you. It is your jobs to go back and tell everyone what it is that you’ve learned here.”
The students were very inquisitive and asked a lot of questions during their morning program and tours. Forestiere and the chairman agreed that was very good and showed how seriously the youngsters were taking things.
‘It was very interesting to see how the county government operates,” Jeb said following the meeting. “We learned a whole lot.”
“It was fun, they helped us and explained stuff to us,” Emberlin said. “It sounds like something I might want to be a part of after I graduate.”
It was something that he’d think about, too, Jeb said.
“We’ll see how it goes,” he said.