Students get taste of civics

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By Damon Lawrence

A career in government is not in Kyle McGee’s immediate plans, but the Oliver Springs High School senior did find value in Thursday’s Roane County Student Government Day.
“I’m liking it a lot,” he said. “I’m actually learning quite a bit about the local government that I didn’t know already.”
Matt Snow, a junior at Harriman High School, said he was also enjoying the experience.
“I’ve learned some things about what goes on over here,” he said.
The day started with students from the county’s five high schools gathering in the Circuit Courtroom at the courthouse.
“The objective of student government day is to help develop this next generation of leadership,” County Executive Ron Woody told the students. “We hope that you all will be interested in some of our  government leadership positions.”
Woody challenged the participants to reflect on what they learn during Student Government Day and be good to other students.
“You never know that that nerd in your class may be who you’re working for one day,” he said.
Woody also challenged the students to have a good story to tell.
“You never know when the opportunity will present itself to tell a good story about yourself, about your family, about your fellow students,” he said.
South of the River resident Bob Van Hook was the guest speaker for the event. Van Hook is the former president of Lockheed Martin Energy Systems, and he once ran Y-12. He spoke to the students about the value of getting an education.
“If you get an education you get to choose your career,” he said. “As opposed to taking a job, you don’t want to go to each day, you have the opportunity to pick and choose what you like to go do. There’s nothing better than going to a day’s work and not knowing you’re at a days work because you enjoyed the day.”
In addition to enjoying a career, Van Hook said money is another reason to get a good education. He cited some figures from Roane State Community College concerning what students can expect to make by obtaining different levels of education.
“With a BA (Bachelor of Arts) or BS (Bachelor of Science), you can expect to make $55,000 a year, on the average, and these are Tennessee numbers rather than national numbers,” he said. “If you go another step and get a master’s you can make $65,000.”
Van Hook said the importance of the numbers is the obligations students may have as they get older.
“First of all, you’d like to live good,” he said. “Secondly, you’re going to have obligations to your children and grandchildren. The other part of it is, all of us, you included are going to be taking care of your parents.”
After hearing from Van Hook, the students dispersed to shadow different county officials. Woody told his group the county executive has no power in the county government.
“If you have no power, than why are you here?” Midway junior Aaron Woody, no relation to the official, asked.
“Our power is the power of influence,” Ron Woody responded. “The power we have is structuring policy and convincing you to support it.”
Other subjects he touched on included county operations, industrial development and fiscal policy.
“Our primary responsibility is the financial management of the county,” he said of the county executive’s job.