Students Take Over County Government

KODAK Digital Still Camera

OSWEGO, NY – A group of seventh graders is on a mission.

On Thursday, the students took part in the annual County Government Day.

Chairman James Weaterup received help from Kiana Clark and Faith Hutmik on Thursday.

“Some of you heard me say this before; but I can’t help but say it every year. Of all the educational programs that Cooperative Extension does, this is my favorite,” said Paul A. Forestiere II, executive director of Oswego County’s Cornell Cooperative Extension. “Cooperative Extension’s mission since the very beginning has been to provide real world education to the public. That’s our mission. That came down from Congress. I can’t think of a better way to do that than to do programs like what we’re doing today. Learn by doing, that’s what we did here today.”

The students, representing schools from all across the county, sat with the legislators and took an active role in the meeting.

“We have given them the opportunity of a lifetime to learn real world what happens in county government,” Forestiere said.

They toured places like the E-911 center, the Sheriff’s Department, met with a judge and the County Attorney as well as debated and voted on a (mock) resolution.

“There is one requirement,” Forestiere told the students. “That one requirement is not that you just sit here and learn. Take what you’ve learned and share it, teach others.”

Now, he said, they’ll go back and tell everybody how it works.

Daniela Mendez-Rodriguez smiles as she waits for the meeting to start. She was paired with Legislator Dan Farfaglia

“They’ll tell their classmates and friends what they learned today. That’s what’s important.”

There are a lot of people complaining about things, Forestiere said.

Many don’t know the process of how things work; they don’t get involved, he said.

“If you want to make things better, get involved, learn how things work. And, that’s what we’re hoping this does for these kids. That they will have an opportunity to look at things and look at life and say, ‘You know what? I want to do something different. I want to do something good,’” he said.

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

One said that a career in politics may be in their future.

Forestiere said he’d like to have a history of the program done.

The students take part in one of Thursday’s resolutions.

“We need to get a history of where this came from. My estimate is we’ve been doing this for 40 years, maybe 45,” he said. “Cooperative Extension started in Oswego County in 1914. Since 1914, we’ve been providing education directly to the people of Oswego County. I don’t know of an other agency that does that.”

“One of the things that is really cool, sitting with Legislator Martino is a young lady named Grace Hayes. Her father went through County Government Day 31 years ago. That gives you an idea of what we’ve been doing and the impact that we have in Oswego County,” Forestiere added.

He appreciates the support from the legislature.

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

“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,” he said. “This is what it’s all about.”