by Jordan Fouts, The Elkhart Truth

GOSHEN — The incoming class of youth leaders were sworn in this week at the Goshen Common Council meeting.

Newly elected Kid Mayor Lincoln Tolin and five other elementary school students took a modified oath of office during the council meeting Monday. The oath the students took commits them to “support and be a voice for the City of Goshen fourth-graders” to the best of their ability.

All fourth-grade students in Goshen voted for kid mayor on Friday after learning about the candidates through speeches and platform videos that they recorded. The other students were Amari Stoll, Christopher Budiardja, Philip Gingerich, Elyana Rojas Lopez and Ainsley McPhail.

Program coordinator Wendy Clark, parent liaison at Model Elementary, announced the kid mayor program in 2021 as a way for students to learn about the election process and how they could effect change in their own community. The program was launched at Model and then expanded citywide – not just limited to Goshen Community Schools – after city council had for several years seated a high-schooler elected by peers as a non-voting youth representative.

Clark said she’d like to expand the program even further.

“The program goes along with the state academic standards for fourth-graders. Each kiddo who wants to participate has to choose an issue that is pertinent to Goshen that is important to them,” she said at the Nov. 13 meeting, as the finalists were preparing to give their speeches to council. “And then they have to think about a solution that is feasible for a fourth-grader to accomplish.”

Clark said the kid mayor race was a tight one this year among the six candidates.

“I got to watch the votes roll in throughout the day, which is kind of exciting. I, every year, feel like I might be able to guess, and I am never correct, on who nails it. This year, it was 1.2 percent difference, so it was very close,” she said Monday. “All of these kids worked super hard standing in front of people and speaking. Your peers, adults. It’s hard for grown-ups, and these are fourth-graders, so we are very proud of all of these kids.”

The runners-up form a kid council. The kid mayor’s duties include helping preside over a city council meeting, Mayor Gina Leichty said, while the council members will meet throughout the year and work on a project related to both the school and city.

Tolin is a Model Elementary student who ran on a platform of organizing a winter coat drive for people in need.

“The reason you should vote me as your kid mayor is because I’m caring, helpful, generous, kind and want to help everyone,” he said in his candidate speech. “My goal is to help everyone I can in need with winter coats, by bringing the community together and organizing a winter coat drive. if you can’t make it to that drive, I will make sure no child in need is left without a coat in the cold winter months.”

Stoll is a Chamberlain student who said in her speech to council that one of her dreams is to do something important and new for her community and the nation. Her fellow Chamberlain students were Budiardja, who said he wanted to provide activities for families waiting at restaurants so they wouldn’t stare at their phones, and Gingerich, who wanted to start a pay-it-forward approach to picking up trash outside.

Rojas Lopez is a Parkside Elementary student who said she wants to see fewer plastic bags used at grocery stores so they don’t end up as litter. McPhail, who attends Prairie View, proposed placing recycling containers downtown and in city parks.

Elections for the high school-age youth adviser are typically held in the spring.

SOURCE: The Elkhart Truth

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