Junior High Students Serve as Officials & Directors for Student Government Day 2017

Junior High Students Serve as Officials & Directors for Student Government Day 2017
Posted on 03/27/2017

The Village of Orland Park hosted its Student Government Day on Monday, March 20 with 18 local junior high students serving as village officials and department directors.

"We've done this every few years as a way to give young adults a firsthand look at local government," said Mayor Dan McLaughlin. "We always have a good time with the kids because they get a quick lesson in village government and then run a mock village board meeting."

The Village of Orland Park's Student Government Day 2017 Essay Contest, held to coincide with the village's 125th anniversary in 2017, invited sixth, seventh and eighth grade residents to write, in 100-150 words, what they like best about specific areas of village government.

The names on all of the essays were hidden and copies were shared with a number of judges who read and ranked each noting how close to the subject matter the student wrote and for what village position they would be best suited. Nearly 100 local junior high students from throughout Orland Park participated. Of the nearly 100 entries, 19 were chosen to serve as elected officials, the village attorney and department directors.

"These kids were very sharp and a lot of fun," said Trustee Jim Dodge, chair of the village's Technology, Innovation and Performance Committee, and the event co-chair with the mayor. "They picked up on how things work very quickly and were ready to present and vote on agenda items at the meeting."

Prior to the meeting, McLaughlin and his counterpart, Student Mayor Gia Pelegrino, led the group in singing happy birthday to Orland Park followed by the two mayors simultaneously cutting the village's birthday cake.

Pelegrino, a sixth grade student at Orland Junior High School, was named mayor for the afternoon having scored highest in the essay contest.

In her entry, Pelegrino wrote, "I like that the Orland Park Board of Trustees is focusing on economic development, downtown development, quality of life and a high performing organization. I especially like how the staff are following guiding principles to accomplish all of their policy directives...customer service, finance/budgeting, progressive management and transparency."

With McLaughlin seated behind her on the dais, Pelegrino kept the meeting on agenda, pausing to listen when the mayor whispered in her ear to guide her.

Student board members included Village Clerk Katie Havener and Trustees Josh Aquino, Sophia Carroll, Guiseppe Cisek, Grace Kane, Jacob Hardesty and Sean Cosgrove. Evie Roth was the village attorney and stepped in as director of the Parks Department.

Hardesty, who served with Trustee Dan Calandriello, chair of the village's Public Safety Committee wrote in his essay, "My favorite part of Orland Park is how considerate the police are...They always make me feel safe living in Orland Park with their patrolling around the city...I definitely appreciate them being around."

Village Attorney Roth wrote about the village's history in her essay, saying, "While it's important to prepare for the future, looking back at the origin of our town and how we got here today is a vital ingredient in stepping forward and making a difference."

Collin O'Boyle, a seventh grader at Century Junior High, was named village manager for the afternoon.

In his essay, O'Boyle wrote, "Orland Park is a great community to grow up in. Safe streets, awesome recreational areas and a large variety of events throughout the year. Police officers are constantly patrolling the neighborhoods to ensure safety." O'Boyle recommended a week off school to celebrate the village's 125th birthday.

The students followed a mock board agenda with student department heads presenting agenda items for the board's consideration. Topics included the DARE Program's 30th anniversary in Orland Park, purchasing ipads, social media and snow reports, Orland Park being a walkable community, purchasing playground equipment and how to celebrate the village's quasquicentennial.

The student village manager reported on the village's community wide survey with the largest discussion prompted by the student human resource director's fictitious request for a "Take Our Dogs to Work Day" for employees.

Along with O'Boyle, village administrators included Assistant Village Manager/Public Information Officer Morgan McGuire, Chief of Police Matthew Morsovillo, Director of Finance Zakery Bowden, Development Services Director Hanna Galindo, Chief Technology Officer Conor McCormick, Director of Recreation Krisha Patel, Director of Public Works Szymon Piton, Parks Director Arvind Sandu, and Human Resources Director Josie Jelly.

Patel, who was named recreation director for the afternoon, wrote about the village's many special events and facilities for all age groups. She said, "Orland Park has many different types of events that change each season," describing how she enjoys the village's special events, programs and facilities.

Szymon Piton, who served as public works director, wrote about feeling safe in Orland Park and that "the construction is making our Orland Park so much better." Piton described liking Downtown Orland Park and how clean the community is.

"It's pretty neat to hear how much these kids love Orland Park," McLaughlin said. "We heard a lot about all that the village offers and how much it means to these kids and that really means a lot to all of us."