By Fred Woods
More than 20 bright, young and intelligent Lee County high school students participated in their Local Government Day April 7. The goal of the day’s events was to acquaint the students, members of the 2014-2015 Lee County Young Leaders Class, with local government in Lee County. Opelika Councilwoman Patsy Jones and Auburn High School Assistant Principal Caroline Raville arranged the day’s program, which included mock meetings of the Opelika City Council and the Lee County Commission, an overview/panel on city government in Lee County, the signing of an actual proclamation by Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller, an overview of county commissions by Lee County Probate Judge Bill English and a luncheon leadership/habitudes discussion led by Mrs. Raville.
Students played the roles of Opelika council persons and county commissioners addressing real problems frequently coming before each group. Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller, Auburn Mayor Bill Ham and Smiths Station Councilman George Stringer participated in the city government presentation and panel.
The proclamation ceremony, highly appropriate for the youth leadership group, addressed the importance of strong family relationships in the community and the need to reduce/eliminate alienating behaviors frequently present in divorces, custody arrangements and other family disputes. The actual proclamation, made at the behest of the Alabama Family Rights Association which was represented by Les Hogan, proclaimed April 25, 2015, as Parental Alienation Awareness Day. AFRA is asking everyone to blow soap bubbles at noon on that day to show their support in spreading the simple message that children should be allowed to freely love both their parents and extended family members. Each bubble will represent the love a child should have for his or her mother and father.
The current class is the third group of Lee County Young Leaders, with the 2015-2016 Class (4th) beginning with a reception May 3. The program, which owes its existence to the strong efforts of Dinah Motley of the Opelika Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber’s Education Committee, is different from many such programs in that participants do not have to pay to participate in the program; therefore the program is open to all students who qualify on the basis of character and scholastics.
Participants are high school juniors and represent all Lee County schools. Auburn High, Opelika High and Smiths Station as Lee County’s largest schools, get five students each. Beauregard gets three while Beulah, Loachapoka and Lee-Scott get two each. Trinity gets one, and so do the homeschoolers. A total of 26 participants are chosen each year.
The program relies heavily on the local community (civic clubs, local businesses, corporate sponsors, units of local government and Southern Union State Community College) for financial support. Southern Union, for instance, provides a bus, driver and associated expenses any time transportation is required.