After a COVID-19-induced hiatus, a City of DeLand program teaching local students about the importance of local government is back.
DeLand’s School of Government went back into session Oct. 31.
The program has DeLand High School students meet monthly with members of the DeLand City Commission and city and county staff members to learn the inner workings of local government.
In attendance during this year’s kickoff was outgoing DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar. He believes the program serves as a great supplement to a traditional classroom education on civics.
“Whether they choose to do anything related to government later in life, whether they be an employee, an elected official,” Apgar said, “one of the purposes of the program is to help them better understand the workings of government at the local level to be more engaged and knowledgeable citizens in the future.”
Accompanying the students through the program is DeLand High School history teacher Lindsay Brinkmann. She’s been involved as a faculty member for 11 years.
“There is a real benefit to the students seeing local government in action,” Brinkmann said. “Frequently, local government is overlooked by students and citizens.”
She continued, “What the students are exposed to frequently is just state and federal government, so they don’t realize that their local government is the one that they could have the greatest impact on.”
DeLand High School senior Adiba Hoque is one of the current students participating in the program. While she’s not currently interested in a career in government — she hopes to pursue a career as a pediatrician or OB-GYN — she is finding the experience valuable.
“I believe the local government is usually undervalued in the community. Even though the residents of the community care and advocate for beliefs and ideals they approve of, they only take action when the matter is on a state or federal level,” Hoque said. “I believe this will help me in my education in the future in learning and understanding my local government.”
One former School of Government student who used her education is Volusia County Court Judge Rachel Myers. While the program didn’t kick off in earnest until 2006, Myers was a part of its first trial run in the 2003-04 school year, when she was a senior at DeLand High School.
“The program showed us how accessible our government really is. I always knew I could freely attend meetings or even call on any officials if necessary,” Myers told The Beacon. “As a Volusia County judge, I now take that same approach. My door is always open to any member of the community, student or otherwise, with an interest in the law or the way the judicial branch works.”
Myers played the role of mayor in a mock City Commission meeting.
“The experience fostered my friendship with Mayor Apgar,” she said. “One I still hold dear today, and other members of the City Commission.”
The current DeLand School of Government students will meet monthly through April 2023, concluding with a mock City Commission meeting of their own and a trip to Tallahassee.