Janna Kelley, Oklahoma State University Pontotoc County extension director, put together an intern program for local and area high school students last year, and it is now continuing into a second year.
Four outstanding students in the Ada area showed up for Monday’s regularly scheduled Pontotoc County Commissioners meeting to be introduced as this year’s interns for the program.
Kelley seems determined to make the public more aware of county government, and she’s starting with the youth.
Ryan Jolly, Maleha Tatum, Olivia Hamilton and Andrew Daniel were guests of the county commissioners Monday morning.
It was a fairly routine morning, absent some of the drama these kids may see on television when the subject is county or state government. However, this was the real deal, and it was just the beginning of a one-week crash course in how various government entities operate, sometimes independently and sometimes by working together.
“The kids have to apply for the internship,” Kelley said. “During the day, they spend two hours in each elected official’s office.”
The group went over to hear County Emergency Management Director Chad Letellier talk about emergency management and how a county plans for it well before there is an emergency.
Before that, the interns took a tour of Pontotoc County Justice Center.
“That was quite an experience for them, too,” Kelley said.
District 13 State Sen. Susan Paddack was scheduled Wednesday to have lunch at the OSU Extension Office with the interns.
“She spoke to them about the relationship between county and state government and how they can work together to get things done,” Kelley said.
District Judge Tom Landrith met with the interns Thursday to give them an idea of what’s at stake in the county judicial system each day.
Before the week ends, the interns will have gone out with the commissioners to take a look at the heavy road-building equipment that is used for county roads.
Kelley said the elected officials are eager for the interns to see what they do. People don’t always know a lot about what their elected officials are doing and the commissioners, for one, want to educate them on the process.
County government, Kelley said, isn’t taught in Oklahoma schools — only state government. She would like to change that.
People have more say and more control in local and county governments than any other government entity. Kelley said flyers are sent out to all the school and various organizations, such as 4-H.
“Those kids like to get involved,” she said.
“There is a need for public awareness about this,” she said. “These are all sharp kids, but they have to buy in. It’s open to anyone who wants to be involved.”