Seniors at Fairbury High School were able to take advantage of an opportunity provided by the American Legion that allowed them to see how county government affects their lives every single day.
Kenneth Dodge, who helped to organize the event for Jefferson County, explained that in addition to Fairbury High School, Meridian was also invited, though due to scheduling, they were unable to attend. He explained the history behind this program.
“This program is set up by the American Legion, and it’s been going since a little after World War Two,” said Dodge. “We do it every year in Jefferson County. It’s a good program! The students get to meet the real people in those offices and learn about what they do every day. I hope that the kids get a lot out of it. This has been a good County Government Day.”
Dodge stated that the goal of County Government day is to give students the chance to see how various aspects of local government plays a role in their lives, whether it is from the roads on which they drive or registering to vote.
Social Studies Teacher at Fairbury High School Aaron Leibel believes it is important for students to see government as something they can play an active role in shaping, because it is easily accessible.
“I think a lot of times when we teach things, in my case government, we teach them concepts, but they don’t necessarily get a chance to see it,” Leibel said. “They don’t get a chance to be involved. I think a lot of times that’s what people complain about when it comes to government.
“They say the government doesn’t represent them,” Leibel continued. “Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, that’s irrelevant. They feel like government is this far-off thing that doesn’t affect them, or isn’t close to them, which is quite contrary because they just have to drive down the street.”
The students were able to visit the various offices that compose county government, from the Jefferson County Extension Office to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, taking a hands-on approach to learning. Leibel believes that this opportunity to learn will help encourage students to become more engaged with the community.
“I would say that this will help them to learn how to be active citizens,” said Leibel. “Eventually, they’re the ones who will be the next leaders of all kinds of different things. Whatever they’re doing, they have to be informed and have to be able to think critically about how they feel about things. The future is in their hands because they’re the ones who will be stepping into that role. So, it’s important to help them learn about these things now because they will be more likely to participate in the future.”