Students assume leadership positions during Youth Government Day

Valley Intermediate students conducted their own council meeting at Pelham City Hall on May 4 to conclude Youth Government Day. (Reporter Photo/Emily Sparacino)

Valley Intermediate students conducted their own council meeting at Pelham City Hall on May 4 to conclude Youth Government Day. (Reporter Photo/Emily Sparacino)

By EMILY SPARACINO / Staff Writer

PELHAM – A new crop of leaders took their seats in Pelham’s City Council Chambers on the night of May 4, prepared to conduct a council meeting and review issues affecting local residents and students.

The leaders were fifth graders at Valley Intermediate School who participated in Youth Government Day, an annual event in which students spend time with city officials and employees to learn about how local government operates and what each department head’s responsibilities are in the municipal framework.

“You can tell our future is in bright hands,” Councilman Maurice Mercer said of the students before the real City Council meeting adjourned and the student-led meeting began.

The students’ City Council included Marvin Ornelas, mayor; Nico Ramos, council president; and Avery Fuller, Brian Benevides, Shay Walsh and Austin Wallace, council members.

Ornelas called on the following department heads to introduce themselves and talk about their job duties: Julia Marshall, director of public works; Citlaly Roman, finance director; Randy Martinez, G.I.S. (Geospatial Information Systems); Cristian Matias and Nicholas Higdon, I.T. directors; Heather Sides, library director; Grayson Reid, parks and recreation director; Zariah Purdie-Larkin, risk management; Ashlee Mann, school board president; Chloe Plummer, superintendent of Pelham City Schools; Jonathan Pena, president of the Greater Shelby County Chamber of Commerce; Ayman Mozeb, chief of police; Catharine Hartley, court clerk; Noelle Smith, Pelham Civic Complex director; Zoe Slaughter, fire marshal; Jordan Holloway, fire chief; Cody Bethers, city engineer; William Lankford, city clerk; Jennifer Hernandez, building official; and Jake Domino, director of golf at Ballantrae Golf Club.

Mozeb shadowed Pelham Police Chief Larry Palmer, who he described as “a great guy” who “makes the community feel like a family.”

“Thank you for letting me be here today,” Mozeb said.

Lankford learned how to call roll and conduct a roll call vote during council meetings from City Clerk Marsha Yates.

“I learned that it’s important what these guys do for us every single day to make this place a better place,” Lankford said. “It feels like a really great blessing to be up here.”