By Sarrah Peters, News Editor
On Tuesday, April 30, the YMCA of the Coosa Valley held its 26th annual Youth in Government Day. Gadsden City High School students were invited to Gadsden City Hall to learn about how government works with an inside look into the process.
“The mission of our Youth in Government Day is to get [the students] involved with the people in your local government and also some of the processes that happen,” said Gadsden City Clerk Iva Nelson while welcoming the students to the event.
YMCA Director LeRoy Falcon also welcomed the students and shared the story of his daughter Kate’s experience on The Voice five years ago. Although Kate was one of a hundred contestants chosen to audition for the judges, she was not selected by the judges to be on the show. After the audition, the judges spoke to Kate, and Pharrell shared a piece of advice.
“He said, ‘Kate, I know you’re upset and I know what you heard is no because we didn’t turn the chairs, but no sometimes just means not yet,” said Falcon. “And that’s what I want you to take with you as you move on and go to college or trade school. You’re going to hear no. Sometimes no is permanent but sometimes no just means not yet.”
Judge Will Clay introduced the students to the swearing in process and swore in students for the positions of mayor, city council, city clerk, city engineer and police chief.
“The oath that you see on TV is ceremonial,” Judge Clay explained. “What makes it legal is the document that they sign. That’s like the contract.”
The students were paired with City of Gadsden employees and shadowed them for the morning, before attending the Gadsden City Council meeting. After the meeting, students were transported to The Venue for a luncheon where Gadsden City Councilman Jason Wilson addressed the students.
Wilson, a Gadsden native, left the area after finishing school. He spent time working in Montgomery and Atlanta, but after a while, began to miss his home and returned to Gadsden where he opened Back Forty Beer Company. When addressing the students, Wilson focused on failure.
“Growing up, my dad used to always ask me at the dinner table every night ‘Did you fail today?” said Wilson. “And I would always have to give him an example of how at some point in the day I had tried something and it didn’t work and I had failed. Then we would have a conversation about what I learned from it and what I would do differently if I had it to do over again and what I would do differently moving forward to avoid making that same mistake.”
Wilson said that failure is inevitable, and despite what the students may have been told, is not a bad thing. Wilson advised them to “fail fast and fail cheap.”
“Know when you’re in a bad situation and get out of it,” said Wilson. “So many times, people will stay around in a bad situation because they are afraid of change or afraid of what comes next. You have to be okay with failure. It’s easy to stay in your comfort zone.”
Wilson also encouraged the students to try new things and learn new skills.
After the luncheon, the students returned to city hall, where they held a mock city council meeting with students serving as city officials. Sam Peterson, who took the mayor’s position, gave several proclamations, including a Dre Kirkpatrick Day, an Earnest Calloway Day and honoring the Gadsden City High School’s music department.
The students then proposed new projects and legislation. Project ideas included a drive-in movie theatre, a paintball park and sidewalks and crosswalks on South 11th Street near the high school. The students discussed each proposal, addressing funding, security and logistical concerns each proposal might face.