Palos Heights eighth-graders join Mayor Bob Straz before conducting a “mock” city council meeting as part of Mayor for a Day activities. (Photo by Nuha Abdessalam)
Students take over Palos Heights City Hall
By Nuha Abdessalam
Palos Heights eighth-graders took over city hall last week but it was a lesson in civics rather than a student uprising.
The Palos Heights students who took the reins had entered an essay contest for the chance to swap roles with the city’s aldermen and Mayor Robert Straz.
The Woman’s Club of Palos Heights sponsored the annual Mayor for a Day event on Oct. 17 at the Lake Katherine Nature Center & Botanic Gardens.
The annual event has been a tradition in Palos Heights since the 1970s and has been a tradition for over 44 years.
There are only four rules for students:
The student must be a resident of Palos Heights.
The student must be in the eighth-grade.
The student must submit a 200-300 word essay.
The student must include four ideas they would like to see implemented in the city for improvement.
The event serves as an opportunity to hear from the community youth about improvements they feel would make Palos Heights a better place to live.
“The event helps better prepare the youth of Palos Heights to understand the role of local government. The Mayor for a Day program benefits our city and our students,” said Ann DeVries, representative of the Palos Heights Woman’s Club, which is an organization dedicated to community improvements by enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service.
Students recited their essays, received certificates for participation, and dined with family/friends, community members, city council members, and Mayor Straz to highlight their efforts and further interest in local government.
“Palos Heights Community is something special, and until you are a part of it, you might not understand how Palos Heights is really about its citizens,” said student Brynn Gonsur.
Views and ideas ranged from improvement ideas like more sidewalks and equipment for local parks to establishing a youth advisory board for the city.
Selected acting mayor was student Ethan Bernsee. “Teens like me are very informed on caring events and need a voice,” he said. “The youth advisory board would significantly benefit Palos Heights and prepare the youth of today for tomorrow. I believe Palos Heights will change for the better.”
“We’ve been doing this since 1979. Many young men and women who have served as roles in the program have turned out to be great citizens of our town,” said Straz.
Other students selected included Gabriela Espinoza, Evelyn Pizer, Alexander Rivera, Zak Bowen, Moira MacLeod, Brynn Gonsur, Omar Yousef, Isla Roditis and Lukas Yerkes.
Students and family members later joined Palos Heights aldermen and Straz for a “mock” city council meeting. The students received a plaque for their participation.
“Keep this in mind,” said Straz. “Stay involved. It’s one thing to write an essay and say something, do more, make an effort, and volunteer to help your community; we need our young leaders to step up and fill our roles.”
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