Council educates civics students

Students at University Christian High School in Conover learned this week that what they study in civics class actually applies in the real world.

The ninth grade honors civics and economics class participated in a three-part learning opportunity with Conover City Council to inspire civic participation and encourage open government.

Teacher Kelly Keever's students met with Mayor Pro tem Kyle Hayman on Monday before the city's regularly scheduled council meeting. Keever and his students attended the meeting then met with Hayman on Tuesday to discuss what they learned about city government and their elected officials.

Monday night was the first Conover City Council meeting for many of Keever's students, so they were prepared with a lot of questions for Hayman.

They wanted to know what the mayor does, whether council members have other jobs besides being public servants and who works in City Hall.

"It's very important that we know where each other are coming from," Hayman told students about his relationship with other council members.

"We don't always agree, and that's OK."

Hayman told students their questions were an important step in becoming informed citizens.

"We felt if a young person is going to appreciate the heritage of where they grew up, you have to get to them early," Hayman said. "Students had a lot of very intelligent questions, and they were very inquisitive."

Keever was on hand during Hayman's classroom discussion Tuesday to remind students how what they saw at Conover's meeting relates to their civics lessons.

"Think about the amendments and how the play into meetings and the checks and balances of government," Keever told students. "It's the idea that not one person is running (the city), and you saw that last night with the mayor and the council."

Students identified the presence of the fifth amendment when council members discussed amending a Conover zoning ordinance. Other students pointed out that the meeting itself is an example of the first amendment, which allows freedom of assembly and freedom of the press to report on the meeting's proceedings.

Classroom discussion turned to unemployment after students heard council's resolution to oppose the job loss from potential closure of the Hickory mail processing facility in Conover. The United States Postal Service announced it will conduct a study of the Conover facility to determine whether it can be consolidated with a USPS processing facility in Greensboro.

Hayman encouraged students and their parents to voice their opinions about the closure through letters to elected officials or signing circulating petitions. The city's resolution against job loss brought many USPS workers to Monday's meeting.

"I thought it was very interesting how many people were there for an issue that concerned the community," said 14-year-old Leah Stanley, adding that she hopes more people will be involved in city government.

Ninth-grader Manny Blasdel said Monday's meeting left him considering a run for elected office.

"I just thought it would be interesting to get involved in my city and community," he said.