Future leaders get taste of public service

DOWNEY - Downey, Warren and Columbus high school student leaders were invited to the first Student Government Day on April 26 at City Hall to gain insight on how our city operates.Councilman Mario Guerra began the event by speaking out the history of the city with facts that even Downey natives are unfamiliar with. It is common knowledge that we have the oldest existing McDonald's, but did you know that the circular symbol on the seal is a remnant of the Cold War years when Downey was incorporated in 1956? Other elements of the seal include a church steeple to represent our diverse religious groups, aircrafts in the sky to commemorate the Apollo space program and a rising sun that shines upon the city's industry. With these unique traits of the city in mind, the students met with government leaders in the council chambers, then proceeded to explore the responsibilities of the city officials by shadowing the mayor, council members and department administrators. Students were given a tour around the city hall while following their assigned leader and preparing to partake in the mock council meeting at the end of the event. I was assigned to work with John Oskoui, director of public works. The main topic of interest in my discussion with Mr. Oskoui was the integration of "slurry seal," a method of preserving the life of our roads by applying a thin layer of emulsified asphalt. Although I did not have much prior knowledge in the field of public works, I was able to understand the importance of properly managing our roads, sewer system, water and other services for the benefit of citizens. In the last hour, the students and city officials gathered to conduct the mock council meeting and discuss the issues that were newly introduced. This time, however, the roles were switched; the adults served as the audience and the students claimed the seats of whomever they shadowed for the day. There were mistakes and awkward moments throughout the meeting; some spoke out of turn while others forgot what they were supposed to say. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable learning experience that surely benefited everyone who participated. Not only were the young leaders encouraged to take interest in the city's developments, but it also provided a valuable opportunity for the city officials to hear the opinions of Downey's youth. Just as the city's motto is "Future Unlimited," the futures of the Student Government Day participants look bright as they consider taking on leadership roles at a higher level.

********** Published: May 5, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 3