Student achievement, public services and economic development are not just issues that vex Montgomery County’s elected leaders, but its youth as well.
Students from across the county gathered Wednesday night to ask the County Council the questions on their minds.
One boy asked what they as students could do to help the council achieve its goals for youth.
Helping their fellow students succeed, Councilman Craig Rice (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown said.
“One of my No. 1 priorities is to make sure that we are addressing the achievement gap in our schools,” Rice said. “I think back to my time in school and how I used to mentor and do a Saturday school program with other students, so if you see other kids that might not be in your classroom that are struggling, you, as a part of your organization, can certainly reach out to some of those students and assist them when it comes to tutoring and being prepared for tests.”
A girl from John F. Kennedy High School in Silver Spring asked about ways to find support for groups like one at her school that helps Latino and minority classmates succeed.
Council Vice President Nancy Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring offered to work with students to find funding that would support their effort.
Students raised education spending, and council members explained the balance between their role and the Board of Education.
The county is very proud of its commitment to public education, and the council knows there will still be more challenges ahead, but it is up to the Board of Education to determine where the money gets spent, said Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring.
A few in the audience were college students and asked about access to health care and safe and reliable public transportation.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, students can stay on their parents insurance until age 26, said Councilman George L. Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park. He also offered to talk to students individually about access to health care.
Councilman Hans Riemer (D-At large) of Silver Spring said he is working expand the county’s digital media outreach so people can tweet the county if there are bus issues, and explained that the county is working on policy to create a bus rapid transit network.
For a group of students in Burtonsville, it was a solution to the vitality of their town that they brought before the council.
Mahlet Gebretsadik, Noiell Gogam, Ryan Santhoshkumar, Chris Mbah, Joshua Nwoga and Myles Hunter are a Destination Imagination team from Burtonsville Elementary School and as part of their project this year they have come up with a way to bring more business and jobs to Burtonsville Crossroads.
Students suggested an international food store and restaurant, a play area and movie theater, where Ryan, 10, said families could dine and watch a good movie.
Being able to address their elected leaders made 10-year-old Myles and 9-year-old Chris nervous and 10-year-old Josh a bit scared, they said.
But it gave them a chance to share their idea for helping their community, Noiell, 10, said - something Mahlet said was really important.
Council members offered suggestions for helping the students reach property owners about their idea.
Only one hour was set aside for the town hall, and not every student had a chance to ask his or her question, but council members stayed after the meeting to talk one-on-one with students.