BY CRAIG CAMPBELL
High school students in Wellington are getting the chance to experience what it’s like to be part of local government through the village’s Civics 101 program.
Palm Beach Central High School teacher Tom Atkins’ Advanced Placement government course was part of a mock Wellington Village Council meeting at the Wellington Municipal Complex on Tuesday, Oct. 17.
The class comprised of seniors elected a mayor, vice mayor and council members, who then listened to and commented on presentations by classmates, who acted as various village department staff members. Then, the mock council voted on the measures.
Deputy Scott Poritz of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and Capt. Bob Dawson of Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue gave an abbreviated version of their semi-annual reports to the student-led council.
The room was full as the rest of the class portrayed residents attending the meeting, with some offering public comments on the proposals before the mock council.
Atkins explained that the class focuses primarily on the federal government, but he wanted his students to have some exposure to what is involved in local government. He found willing partners in Wellington’s elected leaders and village staff members.
On three nights over the course of four weeks, the class met with Wellington’s real council members, then the village’s key staff and, finally, took part in the mock council meeting.
This is Atkins’ final year in the classroom because he will be retiring at the end of this academic year. He is proud of the legacy these seniors will leave to those who follow in their footsteps.
“I am proud to be a resident of Wellington because of the commitment to education here,” Atkins said. “A better education cannot be found anywhere in Florida.”
The students who served as council members all thanked Wellington’s elected officials and staff for their support, and especially Atkins for all his hard work to make this program a reality.
“I want to especially thank Mr. Atkins for giving me, and my classmates, the experience and trusting us with the responsibility to handle this task,” said Palm Beach Central senior Joey Hyppolite, who served as mayor and led the mock council meeting.
Wellington High School students will also take part in the three sessions of the Civics 101 program starting on Oct. 24 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the council chambers.
For more information, call (561) 791-4796 or visit www.wellingtonfl.gov/government/departments/community-services/youth-outreach.