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September 25, 2018

Middle Schoolers Get Firsthand Glimpse of Government In Action


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

Katherine Hill and Legislator Jim Oldenburg go over the agenda for the meeting..

Katherine Hill and Legislator Jim Oldenburg go over the agenda for the meeting.

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

Katherine Hill was paired with Legislator Jim Oldenburg.

The Oswego Middle School student enjoys horses, reading, chorus and art. She is an animator, Oldenburg added.

She said she “is very interested in where our country is headed” and wanted to see how the local government operates.

“We just might see her in politics some day,” the legislator said.

“I have two fantastic kids here today to keep me company,” Legislator Jake Mulcahey said.

Abigail Donahue and Hannah Koster sat at his desk for the meeting. Both attend OMS are high honor students and involved in several sports and clubs.

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

“I did it because he’s my neighbor and I look up to him,” Koster added.

Politics likely isn’t in their future.

“I’d like to be a lawyer,” Donahue said.

Emily Simpson listens to the debate on one of the resolutions. She was paired with Legislator Morris Sorbello.

Emily Simpson listens to the debate on one of the resolutions. She was paired with Legislator Morris Sorbello.

“I want to work at Oswego County Department of Social Services,” Koster said.

Legislator Dan Chalifoux hosted Emily Bradshaw. The seventh grader is no stranger to the legislative chamber. Last year, she addressed the legislator regarding the need for a homeless shelter in the county. Since then she has completed various projects aimed at helping the homeless.

Being a legislator means having to make hard decisions, Bradshaw pointed out.

“But, you can also do a lot of good to help people,” she added.

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

This year, the students held a mock legislature meeting in which they debated hydro-fracking, according to Legislator Jack Proud.

“We had a spirited debate with great participation. Many of the students had done extensive research,” he said. “In the long-run, the resolution (to allow fracking in the county) was defeated by a vote of 21 to 10.”

His student-legislator, Jane Pritchard, read the resolution for the record.

Jane Pritchard reads the resolution that the students debated and voted on during their mock session. She was paired with Legislator Jack Proud.

Jane Pritchard reads the resolution that the students debated and voted on during their mock session. She was paired with Legislator Jack Proud.

“We’ve had a great day. We really have a good group of students this year,” Forestiere told the legislature. “They are really interested; they want to know what’s going on and they want to become involved. How appropriate the good senator (Patty Ritchie) was here today to talk about those who were in public service. (She recognized the late county clerk George Williams and legislators Art Ospelt, Paul Santore and Mary Flett).”

He urged the legislators to look at the students in the room. Some of them just might wind up in public service in the future, he noted.

“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.

“We want you to become involved. If you’re unhappy with what you look at, then please, get involved, help us change it,” he challenged the students. “We welcome you with open arms.”

Earlier in the day, the students visited the county office building, talked with Oswego County Court Judge Walter Hafner, and other activities designed to give the students an understanding of what goes on behind the scenes, Forestiere explained.

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.”

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