Citizenship academies: Opening doors to government and politics for youth – Part 3

Developing a Citizenship Academy requires planning, focus and commissioner interaction.

Developing a citizenship academy takes a lot of thought and planning. It starts with deciding what you want youth to know about the county they live in. There are many resources for locating this information. Start by speaking to selected commissioners and ask what information they feel is important for youth to learn about the county. This information might include the judicial system in your county, Department of Human Services, Commission on Aging, County Airports, etc. It is also important to know what services are mandated and what services are voted in by the public.

Most counties have websites which are a wealth of information. Since counties can differ, check with the County Administrator or the clerk’s office to find out if there is a master plan and who has information about it.

The plan can create interesting discussions as it helps youth see how the county is designed to operate now and in the future. Better yet, ask someone who works with the plan to come in and discuss it with youth – ask questions like who designed it and why they came up with the ideas that are in the plan.

Use the U.S. Census Site and find information on the population of your area. For specific information and statistics about youth in your county you can use the The Annie E. Casey Foundation website.

Department heads and staff from county offices are good resources for information. Learning what services your county provides is valuable information to have before starting your group.

Using these various resources will help determine the focus for the program. Questions to help you determine your focus could include:

  • What do commissioners do?
  • What are their responsibilities?
  • What departments are in the county and what responsibilities do they have?
  • What services are provided for county residents?
  • How does the county support youth, families or senior citizens?
  • What is the economic structure of the county?
  • How are property values determine?

The list goes on and on, and because it does, the staff member will be required to find a focus and stay within those parameters.

Starting a citizenship program in your county helps young people realize at an early age how important it is to know what is going on where they live. It also gives them a better understanding of local government.

For more information about how to start a citizens academy, see these articles:

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