A New Generation of Leaders

Thomas O'Neill III, Peoria County Board

As the end of another school year draws near, many high school students are thinking about their future: Will they apply to college? Join the military? Start a career? Even students graduating from middle school this spring are already planning for graduating from high school in 2014. The future looms, and in this difficult economy when jobs are scarce and unemployment is in the double digits, students are worried that their options after graduation are limited.

Peoria County believes, however, that doors will open and opportunities await students who participate in our summer Civic Leadership Program. College admissions counselors, military recruiters and employers want individuals who are individual—men and women who stand out from the crowd, who are willing to go the extra mile, who get involved and demonstrate leadership. In other words, civic leaders.

Each summer, Peoria County offers a free civic leadership course to all students attending high school in Peoria County. The 2010 summer course is on June 21st and 22nd, and is open to students entering high school this fall and those graduating this spring, as well as all students in between. Public, private and homeschooled students are welcome to apply; class size is limited to 30. Applications are available at peoriacounty.org. Select "Civic Leadership Program." The application deadline is May 28th.

Students participating in the Civic Leadership Program will gain a greater understanding of local government by experiencing firsthand the role Peoria County plays in our community. Taught by elected and appointed leaders, the program offers students behind-the-scenes access to county government. Students taking the course will experience diversity, build new friendships, share opinions and lead.

During the two-day course, students will learn about county services through practical applications. They will participate in a mock jury trial and a zoning appeal hearing. They will run for office and vote in a mock election; resolve a disaster scenario; tour the county jail, crime lab and highway department; and spend time with the older generation at Bel-Wood Nursing Home. Course participants will retrieve a copy of a birth certificate, search a criminal record, collect a receipt for property taxes, determine assessed value, find a deed and report to jury duty.

Each participant will have the benefit of experiencing local government from a dual perspective: as citizen and as public servant. Your son may apply for a marriage license in the morning and run for re-election in the afternoon; your daughter may adopt a dog one day and design a bridge the next. This comprehensive approach increases understanding of county services and the complexities of local government.

Before you hear the familiar complaint of "There's nothing to do!" this summer, encourage your student to apply for the Civic Leadership Program. Becoming a Civic Leader will distinguish your child's résumé and college applications from the masses, and it may even lead him or her down a career path previously unconsidered: public service. For course times and meeting locations, visit www.peoriacounty.org/communications/civic or call 495-4862. 

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