Shadows Follow Government

Shadows Follow Government

Students glimpse government behind the scenes.

McKenzie Lawyer knew since she was five years old she wanted to be a lawyer.

The Stone Bridge High School student, who decided on the career because of her last name, plans to major in political science, become a lawyer and later serve as a senator.

"I'm interested in politics and government. I think the legislative issues they have to deal with are important. ... I want to make those important decisions," said Lawyer Monday afternoon during the Board of Supervisors luncheon recess at the bimonthly board meeting.

McKenzie was one of about 35 high school students to participate in the 5th annual Youth in Government Day. The students shadowed board members and department heads to learn about the daily work of local government employees and officials, take tours of governmental facilities and find out about possible careers in government.

McKenzie shadowed Supervisor Drew Hiatt (R-Dulles), who serves in her district in Ashburn. "It's important everybody is heard on the subjects important to the community," she said after sitting at the dais Monday morning. "The Board of Supervisors are the ones who make the actual decisions, so they need to have an educated decision. I've learned that the issues they deal with are sometimes controversial. ... I wasn't aware when I came into this ... there is sometimes a rift of opinion based on party, sometimes not."

STONE BRIDGE High School student Nikki Buchholz wanted to participate in Youth in Government Day to gain "a good insight into what I might want to do one day," she said.

"Government makes you have long hours, and it takes a lot of work," said the Ashburn girl, who wants to be a lawyer or a reporter. She shadowed Terrance Wharton, director of the Department of Building and Development. "It's fun meeting different people who are willing to share their job experiences. ... I was expecting them to be the stereotype of not wanting to help you."

"It's a good opportunity for us in government to give these young people a first-hand look at what we do every day," said Sheriff Stephen Simpson.

Tyler True, who shadowed Simpson, agreed. "We get to see how the government functions. It's a really good experience," he said.

The Potomac Falls High School student hopes to work for the CIA after college and wanted to find out what his father and grandfather experienced in their jobs as police officers. He took a tour of the county jail, the communications center and the administrative offices for the Sheriff's Office and rode in the front seat of Simpson's cruiser. "It's just interesting to see how people react," he said.

The county Office on Youth coordinated the Youth in Government Day.

"It just gives students an opportunity to see what's happening in local government to see ways to participate in the local process and to see opportunities for employment and careers," said Chairman Scott York (R-At large). "It's been a pleasure to have all the youth here today."