Freeport Area Students Learn About Local Government Through Buffalo Township Supervisors Meeting

The future of Allegheny-Kiski Valley politics could be sitting in a classroom at Freeport Area High School.

Teacher Mark Wyant hopes this is the case as the elders in his specialized government class explore how the democratic process works throughout the school year.

“Maybe in national politics we have reached political inertia, but always at the local level, things are being done,” he said. “And things are being done that have more impact on you and me than on national politics.” That’s why we’re doing it.

Students have a project for each grading period. The first was to attend a town meeting. The next nine weeks will include attending a school board meeting. The third will ask students to attend a meeting of Armstrong County Commissioners, and the fourth may invite students to come to Harrisburg to see how the State House or Senate works.

Each semester, students write articles with a summary of their experience. They try to answer the question of whether they would participate in what Wyant called “the great experiment: participatory democracy”.

The class attended a Buffalo Township supervisors meeting earlier this month.

They saw how elected leaders addressed a variety of topics, including stormwater management issues impacting residents.

The students asked questions during and after the meeting.

“I learned a lot of different things about how they come to conclusions about issues,” said Rachel Heeter, senior. “I liked it. I thought it was very interesting to learn and to look upstream.

Autumn Franks took an interest in the stormwater discussion. She was surprised by what was considered private property issues and could not be addressed by the township.

“I found it interesting that the township cannot help everyone,” she said. “(What) I thought the local government (does) is they help everyone, but they can’t fix everything for everyone. They have to decide what is within their jurisdiction.

Autumn said she plans to enter the chemical engineering field and plans to attend various government meetings as a result.

Other students couldn’t say if they would run for elected office, but all agreed the time was well spent.

Rachel described the government class as very intellectual, difficult but overall fun.

Buffalo Township Supervisor President Ron Zampogna III met with the students after the meeting and congratulated the young learners on their preparation.

“They took us up there a bit, but it’s great that the students come to see what’s going on in a meeting,” he said. “I think we see a different group every year. It’s a great experience for them, and it’s good for us to answer their questions.

“I think it’s very important to start at a young age and understand what’s going on. Maybe they will want to take my place one day, hopefully.

Wyant has taught in the district 34 years with the specialized government course, part of about 30 of them.

He said the current class is very passionate and eager to learn how their communities, school district and country work.

“I love each of them,” Wyant said. “I couldn’t ask for nicer kids. Hard workers, salt of the earth.

“I’m not worried about the future because I know the caliber of students I have at Freeport, and I feel good about the future not just for this region but for the country if these kids get involved. . “

Wyant also believes that the younger generation needs to get involved in their local governments more than ever.

“These days, with polarization and division, it behooves students to understand the democratic process,” he said. “It’s a process of engagement and a process of listening to each other and seeking compromise. We cannot all make our own way.

“Informed citizens can sit down, engage in discussions and debates, respect each other, find common ground and advance progress in society.

“Democracy can be functional.

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