GOSHEN (Feb. 17, 2021) — Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman is about to get some stiff competition from the city’s youth with the announcement of a new Kid Mayor program.

The new program, announced during the annual joint Goshen City Council/Goshen school board meeting Tuesday evening, will begin as a pilot program for fourth graders at Model Elementary School this spring, after which it will be opened to all fourth-grade students within Goshen Community Schools, Bethany Christian Schools, St. John the Evangelist Catholic School, as well as any homeschooled students who might be interested in participating, with the only requirement being that they have a Goshen address.

Sparking Civic Engagement
Helping to introduce the program Tuesday was Wendy Clark, a parent liaison at Model Elementary School.

“We hope that you are all as excited about this project as we are,” Clark said of the project. “We believe that through the Kid Mayor program, we will be able to build a relationship between our young people and an involvement in our community which could spark that interest — or even a love — of civic engagement, especially on a local level.”

According to Tami Hicks, principal at Model Elementary, Clark actually came to her with the idea for the new Kid Mayor program about six months ago, and she was immediately intrigued.

“So, we decided that we would pitch this to the mayor, and we’ve talked to him on several occasions about this, and he’s on board,” Hicks said of the project. “The purpose and the why behind this is to help foster that positive relationship between our students and our community at an early age, and get them involved in decision-making and civic engagement.

“Our missions and our visions involve being innovative, and empowering potential, and enriching our world. So, we want to take our school outside of the walls of our school and get our kids involved in civic engagement and community politics, and also to promote the importance of local city government and civic engagement,” she added.

Asked about why fourth grade was chosen as the target for the project, Hicks noted that Indiana’s fourth grade social studies curriculum has a strong focus on Indiana government, and particularly looking at Indiana government through the lens of each school’s local community.

“The standards for the state of Indiana for fourth grade talk about citizen rights and responsibilities, investigating different problems in your communities and finding solutions, using inquiry-based things — which we do in our schools — and communication to find data to back why these things are problems,” Hicks said. “They also talk about making sure that we demonstrate responsible citizenship, exercising that civic engagement. It’s a much better way, then, to connect our young folks with our own city council and mayor.”

Election Process
In order to be considered for the Kid Mayor position, students will be required to fill out an application and choose an issue relevant to the Goshen community to serve as their platform.

“Next, learners will make a short, three minute or less video where they will present their issue, they will talk about why it is important in our community, and propose a possible way to help solve this issue,” Clark said. “The solution must be a solution that is both practical and feasible for a fourth-grade student to complete.

“Learners will then have their videos reviewed by a community committee, which we will assemble. This community committee will consist of a diverse section of Goshen, and will hopefully include people like school counselors, parent liaisons, teachers, city employees, small business owners, regular citizens, and maybe even some of the high school students that are involved in the advisory program,” Clark added of the process. “The committee would be responsible to screen the videos and choose a top five to 10 finalists, and that number will depend on how many participants we have.”

Once the program finalists are chosen, it will then be time for the students to begin their campaigns for Kid Mayor.

“This will consist of having their video presented to all of the fourth-grade learners in Goshen,” Clark said. “ We would like to host an event so that each candidate can speak for one or two minutes to introduce themselves, and to say why they think they would be a good Kid Mayor for the city of Goshen.”

Program Timeline
According to Clark, once the small-scale pilot program has been successfully completed at Model, the plan is to open the program up to all fourth-grade learners in Goshen in early September of this year.

“Finalists will then be selected by the community committee, have a few weeks that they can campaign, and then fourth-grade learners would be able to vote for the Kid Mayor at a predetermined date in late October or early November,” Clark said, noting that the winner would then serve as Kid Mayor for the remainder of the school year. “Once elected, the Kid Mayor would participate with Mayor Stutsman in various events in the community. Possibilities for these events would include things like running a city council meeting, working alongside the city youth advisor, attending ceremonial events, a Tour Of The City Day with the mayor, and in addition to these events, the top three finalists along with the Kid Mayor would form a committee that would meet on occasion.”

In voicing his support for the project Tuesday, Stutsman noted that he’s been looking forward to the kick-off of the Kid Mayor project since learning about the plan late last year.

“I’m really excited about this, too, and I think it’s going to be a great program,” Stutsman said following Tuesday’s presentation. “I appreciate you bringing it to us. So, thank you.”

Source: John Kline, The Goshen News

The Terminal