MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) — The City of Morgantown is looking to foster future leaders in local government and is doing so by giving local students the closest thing they can get to the real thing.
On Wednesday, students from Morgantown High School were brought in to participate in a mock city council meeting for Municipal Government Week.
“Municipal Government Week is the idea of helping inform some of our younger residents about all the roles that municipalities play and keeping them informed of how they operate,” said Mohammed “Joe” Abu-Ghannam, the Deputy Mayor for Morgantown.
By being a part of this mock council meeting, the students were able to witness firsthand the processes that city officials have to go through in order to make an ordinance, pass a law and create funding for different programs that citizens want to see in their communities.
Aside from serving as deputy mayor, Abu-Ghannam is also a teacher within the business department at Morgantown High School. So when the city clerk asked him if he knew any students who would be interested in participating, Abu-Ghannam recruited students from his Business and Marketing class to volunteer for this mock meeting.
“At the business department right now—in Business and Marketing, we’re learning about social responsibility as it relates to businesses and their impact on everyone around them,” Abu-Ghannam said.
The students participated by filling the roles of the different officials on the city council. Some of their teachers spoke out during the public comment portion of this meeting and the students voted on several different ordinances that would impact the Morgantown community.
There were three different ordinances that were discussed at the meeting:
- The authorization to build a parking garage for Morgantown High students to guarantee parking.
- Required access to free food for all residents under the age of 18.
- A proposal to make FaceTime calls illegal in public spaces. According to Abu-Ghannam, the students came up with two of these ordinances in class.
The students proposed different ordinances, voted on which ones to utilize, and even determined the resolutions for each one prior to the mock meeting. However, the latter ordinance regarding FaceTime calls was made up by Abu-Ghannam who said he included it because “It’s personal, just to see if they would argue about it.”
By participating in this exercise, Abu-Ghannam said that he hopes the students understand not all rules and laws are completely black and white. He said that oftentimes, he hears people weighing in on decisions that affect the city, making comments like “that’s common sense, we should definitely do that.”
“But then when you have to look at the funding or the finances or who may be affected that you didn’t intend to cause issue or grief to, and just to be able to see that not everything is as easy as it may sound,” he added. Abu-Ghannam also said that “the kids did such a fantastic job today, I was very proud of all the effort that they put in.”
The City of Morgantown will be holding events throughout the week to recognize Municipal Government Week, and they’ve even had some already.
“Every year during this time, from the steps of our State Capitol to the smallest towns and villages, public servants participate in ceremonies, information fairs, parades, and other events to celebrate Municipal Government and honor their employees,” Christine Wade, Morgantown’s City Clerk said.
On Oct. 19, Morgantown will celebrate Employee Appreciation Day by serving cotton candy in every city building throughout the city for its employees. Abu-Ghannam also said that the Tree Board for the City of Morgantown plans to plant a tree on this day somewhere along Maple Avenue.