Evesham Youth Advisory Committee holds Mock Council Meeting

Officers of YAC played the roles of council members while younger members of the group spoke for and against issues.

Photo by Zane Clark: From left, Amy Welsey, Nik Kadirisani and Lindsey Florio listen to concerns from fellow YAC members acting as local residents.

Evesham’s Youth Advisory Committee got a lesson in leadership and the workings of municipal government this week when the group held its annual “Mock Council Meeting.”

Officers of the Youth Advisory Committee sat upon the same dais where Evesham Council sits in the township municipal complex as they played the roles of council members for the fictional town of Hillsdale, which was described as similar in size and demographics to Evesham Township.

The officers listened to other, younger members of the Youth Advisory Committee as they spoke for and against issues affecting Hillsdale, including whether to enact new regulations for fishing and whether to proceed with a developer looking to build an amusement park.

After several “residents” voiced their concerns on a particular issue, the Hillsdale councilmembers took the comments into consideration and gave a recommendation to the Hillsdale township manager.

Evesham Councilmember Deb Hackman, who started the Youth Advisory Committee as a way for kids to support the township through volunteerism and service projects, said seeing the officers run the meeting would help the younger members of Youth Advisory Committee learn to become comfortable in leadership roles.

“It takes practice. You don’t just go from being a member of the club to being one of our officers and have it feel comfortable. I want them to be able to be role models for the rest of the organization,” Hackman said.

According to Hackman, several of the officers have only one more year of high school, so she felt it was important to begin developing a new crop of leaders. Hackman said having the younger kids think and speak about Hillsdale’s issues at the meeting was a way to accomplish that goal.

“You want to nurture kids, whether it be with Youth Advisory Committee or with any organization at school or in the community or in their careers, — you want them to feel comfortable stepping up to the plate and being able to speak,” Hackman said.

Lindsey Florio, the Youth Advisory Committee officer who played the role of Hillsdale’s mayor, said she learned a lot from the meeting on how municipal government works and said the younger members brought up great points.

“I feel like I learned a lot about what council members do up at the top and how they have to think about each topic the township and members of the public bring to them and they have to think things through a lot,” Florio said.

Nik Kadirisani, another officer who played a member of council, said the experience taught him much of what goes on at a council meeting is primarily due to what members of the audience say.

“If we as council don’t say something, it’s not as much as a problem as the public not saying something because they are the voice that needs to be heard,” Kadirisani said.

Overall, Florio described the meeting as another one of the ways Evesham’s Youth Advisory Committee helps introduce kids to serving their community.

“Youth Advisory Committee really encourages different grades through elementary school through high school to get involved with the community and have a voice,” Florio said.

For more information about Evesham Youth Advisory Committee, visit http://www.evesham-nj.org.