Source: Sherman Publications

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LOHS students get political

by Gabriel L. Ouzounian

April 18, 2012

LOHS freshman Becca Roughton and Teacher Kevin Kopec discuss the inner workings of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners at last Thursday’s event. Photo by G. Ouzounian
Elected officials and area high school students both got a treat April 12 when the Oakland County Board of Commissioners invited over 100 kids to participate in the annual Youth in Government day.

Led by LOHS Social Studies teacher and Government Club Advisor Kevin Kopec, four Orion students had the opopportunity to rub elbows with local politicians and learn that while they often argue, agreements in the commissioner's building are frequent and beneficial.

"Having this day gives the kids a chance in today's world to see that there's more than just the negative stuff," said Fourth District County Commissioner Tom Middleton. "That's all they're exposed to and this day give them an opportunity to see the government working together. We can agree to disagree and these kids never get to see the negotiation - you have to be here to see that."

Elected in 2002, Middleton was a 1964 graduate of LOHS. He spoke extensively with the four orion kids that attended the event about the structure of his financial committee and how all tax dollars have to go through him. He also wanted to convey that while the decisions made by the board are often tough, Oakland County is a place where politicians can get along. He said they work as a team to get things done, frequently work with the state and have one of the best relationships between county executive, legislature (the county commission) and the courts.

Kopec said he thought it was important for the kids to have exposure to government early on because it's something that will affect them later in life.

"Coming to this kind of thing gives you an idea of what to expect in the court, when filing for licenses or what happens at a committee meeting," said Kopec. "The committee was talking about Paint Creek Trail fund appropriation, for example, and that stuff goes largely unnoticed even though it can directly impact (Orion kids.) Events like this help bring it out and gives them a chance to see behind the scenes."

Kopec said the commissioners have held this event since 1993. Before, only a four day Lansing trip was available, where officials in Michigan's capital would hold mock trials, elections, votes and discussions for the collected students. While this event still exists, he and Middleton both thought it was good for students to get a more local view of their legislature.

"The Oakland County visit is like a local version of the four day Lansing visit, so I usually like take a chunk of the government club to this," said Kopec. "In this case it was all underclassmen. I wanted some of the younger kids to see the local stuff so they can share with those that get interested in government next year.

"All the kids that went (thursday) are interested in politics, but this really is important stuff for everyone, even those not interested."