Every day, I meet the future, and likely, so do you. My 12-year-old son, Oliver, witnesses my life and work for the Town of Hilton Head Island. And last March, when he presented to Town Council the idea for Student Government Day, the concept was unanimously approved. Oliver proposed that Student Government Day be a day of excitement, learning, understanding, appreciation and inspiration for the student participants. For me and the other Councilors, it was all of that and more.
Town staff member Faidra Smith, a former teacher, seized upon the idea. And the town staff and Councilors met the future on those two days in February. We were the ones who were truly inspired. And oh, did we learn a few things!
We learned that our young Hilton Head Islanders are interactive and knowledgeable about local and global issues. As civil servants for a day, they campaigned for office and prepared to consider the issues of mandatory recycling and food vendor trucks. They discovered how each town department handles real life issues, how information is gathered, researched and communicated and finally, how decisions are made by elected officials. The students engaged the adults with challenging questions. They displayed understanding of how these issues may eventually impact broader matters of public policy. They realized that local matters are ultimately of importance to the world they are inheriting.
The students also engaged us, the adults, with challenging questions. We learned that this generation embraces values critical to our community. Participants were vocal in expressing their desires to sustain what is special about Hilton Head Island. Their direct questions to Town Councilors focused on the environment and on protecting the beauty and use of the beaches, promoting arts, heritage and culture for audiences and aspiring artists, and providing family-friendly opportunities to live, recreate and celebrate. Students expressed heartfelt compassion for their teachers in desiring that they be able to live nicely and affordably on Hilton Head Island. And they spoke of their concerns for the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists.
Poignantly, we learned that these fine students, who are growing up and being educated here, aspire to accomplish great things. They are incredibly optimistic about their futures. When asked, they confidently described plans for higher education, challenging career choices and fearless engagement with adulthood.
Oliver’s original presentation to Town Council was entitled "Consider and Decide." And honestly, isn't this what we all need to do daily? The Town Council's priorities of Vision, Workforce Availability, Arts, Heritage, and Culture, Heirs' Property, Regionalization and Infrastructure are all about our civic engagement, just as our children demonstrated. It’s worth it. It's for our future.
The island that our students call home is impacting their lives. Our efforts as a town are aimed at sustaining the kind of unique community that will continue to influence future generations and someday draw them back. Let's meet the future head-on, and encourage the next generation to do likewise.
Congratulations to the Inaugural Student Government Day Class!
Hilton Head Island Middle School:
Elizabeth Ann Walling
Hilton Head Island High School:
St. Francis Catholic School: