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Grafton High students shadow officials; learn about government

by James Fisher

REGIONAL WRITER

GRAFTON -- When Grafton High School junior Jon Reed and his classmates trooped into the county courthouse Thursday morning, most had little idea about the inner workings of government.

At the end of the day, they left the courthouse with a very good idea of what government officials do every day after having received a crash course in governmental affairs from the elected officials themselves.

The students -- all upperclassmen at GHS -- are members of Alan DePiano's Problems of Democracy class and got the opportunity to spend the day working side-by-side with the many county and city government officials.

"The kids seem to really like it," DePiano said. "This is a hands-on experience that lets them see their own economy in the workplace and how government actually works."

Reed, who chose to shadow Taylor County Prosecuting Attorney John Bord, spent the day learning the ins and outs of the legal system.

"I already had the idea of going into law and this really furthered my interest," he said. "This really gives a good taste of the real world. Getting the chance to go spend a day with the person who actually does the job, it really gives you a good idea of what to expect and what they do."

For one student, Thursday's opportunity was a continuation of something he's been doing for several months. Chad Proudfoot has been working with County Clerk Nancy Fowler on voter registration and was the youngest poll worker in the county during Tuesday's primary election.

"He's done just a fantastic job for us," Fowler said. "He's the outreach registrar for Grafton High School and he's registered 133 seniors this year."

Proudfoot, who plans to study law at college, also is the youngest notary public in the state, Fowler said.

While the day's activities were lauded by students and elected officials alike as being worthwhile, future students at GHS will not be able to gain the same experiences because DePiano will no longer be teaching the class.

"Many kids are going to be deprived of this great chance to learn about local government," said junior Patrick Helms. "I think future kids should be able to have this chance because it was such a great experience."

DePiano said the Student Experience Day is held in conjunction with the Elks Youth in Government Week. The Problems in Democracy class is being converted into a sociology class next year, he said. While there may still be some type of experience day for students, it will not be to the same extent, he said.

"The town is really pushing us to keep it so we may do something along the same lines," he said.

Regional writer James Fisher can be reached at 626-1446.

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