At this point in their lives, the first four high school students to take part in the Pontotoc County Government Summer Internship Program don’t plan to go into politics, but all four believe this week will prepare them to be better citizens.
“They will all be taxpayers someday,” Oklahoma State University Extension Educator Janna Kelley said Tuesday, after the four interns — Lillie Spencer, Olivia Hamilton, Adam Daniel and Andrew Daniel -- had attended a county commissioners meeting and had taken a tour of the Pontotoc County Courthouse on the second day of their five-day schedule of events. “Everybody needs to know about county government. We tried to rotate them through every office and give them a dose of all of it.”
Although Kelley has spearheaded the new program she said the idea originated with county commission chairman Justin Roberts.
“Justin told us how many people he meets who don’t know what goes on in county government,” Kelley recalled. “That’s what started this.
“We get a ton of calls at the office, and when we ask them who their county commissioner is, they don’t know,” she said. “We’re hoping this first year will kind of kick things off and it will grow from there.”
Of the four interns, only Spencer — an Ada High student who wants to be an attorney — plans to put what she learns this year to use in her career.
“I just wanted to learn about county government, because I don’t know anything about it,” she said.
Less than two days into their week as county government observers, all four said they already knew a lot more than when they started.
“I didn’t know the records went back as far as they did,” said Hamilton, who attends Latta High School. “I found people I knew and where their land was and what they paid for their land.”
Adam Daniel, who is home-schooled and has a full-time job at Nichols Dollar Saver, plans to pursue a career in music but said he expects this week to pay dividends for him down the road.
“I wanted to do this and understand what each office does,” said Daniel, who spent Monday at the county treasurer’s office. “When I get taxes taken out of my paycheck, I want to see where (the money) goes.”
Andrew Daniel is also home-schooled and, although he hasn’t decided on a major in college, he called his week “a really rare experience”, adding, “not a lot of people get to do it. It’s really helpful.”
The intern program was made possible through cooperation between Kelley’s office and county officials and was financed through a $500 OSU Leadership Development grant. The interns will hear from a different speaker at lunch each day this week. Monday’s speaker was Notie Lansford from OSU, Tuesday’s was Pontotoc County Emergency Management Director Chad Letellier, today’s is state representative Susan Paddack, and Friday’s is Joe Dixon of the county excise board. On Thursday, the interns will have lunch with county commissioners Justin Roberts, Danny Davis and Gary Starns.
“We made a presentation to all of the county elected officials, and they got on board with it,” Kelley said. “So far it’s been really great.”