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Middle Schoolers Get Firsthand Glimpse of Government In Action

Legislator Frank Castiglia introduces Samantha Perkins. Looking on are Zachary Moore and Amanda Ronkko.

Legislator Frank Castiglia introduces Samantha Perkins. Looking on are Zachary Moore and Amanda Ronkko.

OSWEGO, NY – Nearly three dozen students from around the county took control the of the May meeting of the Oswego County Legislature.

Legislator Frank Castiglia introduces Samantha Perkins. Looking on are Zachary Moore and Amanda Ronkko.
Legislator Frank Castiglia introduces Samantha Perkins. Looking on are Zachary Moore and Amanda Ronkko.

The students sat with their legislator counterparts and cast their votes during the meeting.

The students said they appreciated the chance to sit in on an actual county meeting and vote for their legislators.

“I thought it was really fun and exciting,” said Owen Warner from Oswego Middle School. He was paired with Legislator Michael Kunzwiler. “It was very realistic, too. We learned a lot, seeing how things work.”

He isn’t planning on a political career, but added, anything is possible.

Another Oswego student, Matthew Broadwell was paired with Legislator Shane Broadwell, his father.

“I liked talking about stuff, doing the debates,” the younger Broadwell said. “We learned that there is a lot that goes into deciding things.”

Student Amanda Ronkko stands with Legislator Jack Proud as he makes a point during the meeting.
Student Amanda Ronkko stands with Legislator Jack Proud as he makes a point during the meeting.

He too hasn’t ruled out public service as a career choice.

Paul A. Forestiere II, executive director of Oswego County Cooperative Extension, helped organize the annual event.

Besides learning how county government works, the students also had tours of the Public Safety Center, the 911 Center, had meetings with the judge and visited with the DA as well as other activities, he explained.

“They now have become so much of an expert that we have asked them to go back to their schools The only thing that we ask of them is when they go back to their school to talk with their classmates and with their teachers and with other people. We want them to go back and talk about what they’ve done, what they’ve learned today.”

Earlier in the day, the students were split into groups to debate and vote on a mock resolution.

This year, the students held a mock legislature meeting in which they debated erecting off-shore wind turbines in Lake Ontario, according to Legislator Jack Proud, facilitator of the event. He was assisted by Legislator Roy Reehil

Legislator  Jacob Mulcahey introduces his student Emma Alton.
Legislator Jacob Mulcahey introduces his student Emma Alton.

“We had a spirited debate with great participation. Many of the students had done extensive research,” he said. “I want to thank the mentor legislators for the winning group, the pro wind power group, – Legislator Jake Mulcahey and Legislator Terry Wilbur. Tasting defeat with the anti group was Legislator Margaret Kastler and Legislator Shawn Doyle.”

Kevin Gardner, chairman of the legislature, 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.

Legislator Wilbur recognized Proud for his dedication – working with the students on his 80th birthday.

“The issue the students debated was wind power,” Forestiere noted. “The difference this year was – this is the first time that this issue was approved. In previous years, wind power has always been voted down. So, who knows? The next generation may be looking at things significantly than we do.”

Paul Forestiere addresses the legislature and the students at Oswego County Youth Government Day.
Paul Forestiere addresses the legislature and the students at Oswego County Youth Government Day.

“We’ve had a great day. We really have a good group of students this year,” Forestiere told the legislature. “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.”

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.

“The reality is, you are looking at the next generation. And maybe by exposing them to what we have today, maybe we can get some of the young people to say, ‘yes, I would like to do that,’”he said.

He thanked the county and his staff for all the hard work that went into making the day possible.

“Our mission is to educate. That’s what we do; we educate, real world, real time,” he said. “This is what it’s all about.”