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Civics lesson

WINDSOR – It could be described as perhaps the world’s best civics assignment outside of the classroom.

This month, both the Bertie County Board of County Commissioners and the county’s Board of Education will swear in junior board members along with the actual newly elected true board members during both their respective December meetings.

The junior board members will have no voting power on any agenda items, but they will have a chance to contribute to the discussion, thus lending a voice and bringing a young student perspective to all aspects affecting the county and affecting the schools.

They will get a chance to hear, and to weigh in on all matters brought before each board.

“These junior board members are an extension of the newly implemented Student Government Associations in each school,” said Bertie County Schools Superintendent Dr. Catherine Edmonds. “One member of the junior class and one from the senior class will serve on each board for a one-year term, beginning in December and lasting through June 2019.”

The junior board members were slated to be selected by the end of November.

Bertie County Commissioner and Board Chair Ernestine Bazemore is credited with the concept.

“When this comes to fruition, it will be the first program of its kind in the state,” Bazemore stated. “The aim is for opportunities to be opened to these special students, and for the students to experience the democratic process in action.”

The Junior Commissioner will be sworn in at the Dec. 3 Bertie County Commissioners meeting; and the Junior School Board member will be sworn in at the Dec. 11 meeting of the county’s Board of Education held at the Bertie County Schools’ Central Office complex.

“It is key that the students who are interested in serving to be willing to convey student opinion to both boards, and to report all board deliberations and actions to the student body,” added Edmonds.

There was a detailed application process undertaken, which included an interview by BCS Central Services personnel, who recommended the student representatives to the Superintendent’s executive team for approval.

“This program will take Superintendent Edmonds’ efforts to give students a voice to a whole new level,” said school board chairman Bobby Occena.

And the rest of the Bertie Commissioners are fully on board with the plan laid out to them by Chairman Bazemore.

“We hope it will be an awe-inspiring experience for the students,” Bazemore said. “We also think hearing from our young people will add a different light to the situation. One student will serve on the board and one will serve as an alternate.”

Bazemore says she hopes this will spur youngsters of all persuasions to stand up and speak up when it comes to civic responsibility and the workings of government.

“I’ve noticed a lack of participation in the younger generation,” she surmised. “Maybe if they knew the importance when they see it in action first-hand, it will stimulate within them that one day they might want to advance in politics. They’ll get to know more about their community, their county, and this is a good way to get these young ones that are our future more involved.”