MH City Council seeks students for mock council internship

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published January 31, 2017

MADISON HEIGHTS — The city of Madison Heights is currently accepting applications from area students for its city internship program. In it, students will have the chance to role-play as city officials and learn how they can make a difference by participating in local government.

Students can role-play as City Council members or the mayor, running a mock council meeting. New this year is the option to role-play as the city manager, city clerk or city attorney, for a total of 10 students on the mock council.

Also new this year is the option to attend citizen advisory board meetings. The two options are the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and the Information Technology Advisory Committee.

The city internship program was revived last year by Mayor Pro Tem Mark Bliss, who himself was inspired by a similar program years ago when he attended Lamphere High. The program had been dormant in recent years, but was well-received when it returned in 2016.

“There are new things we want to try this year,” Bliss said. “This program is near and dear to my heart. I was very happy when my peers on council allowed me to bring this program back, having participated in it when I was younger. I wouldn’t be up here today if that program hadn’t shown me government isn’t scary. It’s not (divisive) like it appears on the news. It’s just neighbors who want to make their community a better place.”

Students are mentored one on one by the city official they’re role-playing and given a crash course in parliamentary procedure. They’ll have opportunities to shadow city department heads for a behind-the-scenes look at city operations. The takeaway is how anyone can make a difference in local government, whether they’re an elected official or a citizen volunteer.

The program is open to students who live in Madison Heights and attend Madison, Lamphere or Bishop Foley Catholic high schools.

Emma Green, now a senior at Lamphere, participated on last year’s mock council as the mayor of Madison Heights. She was mentored by Mayor Brian Hartwell himself.

“I was sort of thrown into the program by my government teacher,” she said at the Jan. 23 council meeting. “I was a little hesitant at first — I wasn’t sure what to expect or that I could handle the job I was being handed. I ended up being handed the position of mayor in a coin toss.

“Through the program, I discovered my own passion for government,” Green said. “My goal this year is to attend every (City Council) meeting. To any students watching this, I recommend you apply for this program. It opens your eyes to what’s going on in the community. Since then I’ve been more involved, and nothing bad has come of it — only good.”

Bliss said he hopes the program will make government seem more approachable to students. He feels that City Council has a responsibility to inspire the next generation to take their seat at the table and be part of the decision-making process. The application process has also been streamlined this year to encourage participation. 

“After this difficult election we just experienced, this program can shine a light on how government can be, where even if you have a difference of opinion, it doesn’t mean you can’t work together,” Bliss said. “I speak for my peers on council when I say we work together. Whatever difference of opinion we have, we find ways to find common ground. I can’t wait to show that example to students who come in.”

For details on how to apply, visit surveymonkey.com/r/mockcitycouncil. The deadline to enter is Feb. 17. For more information, visit madison-heights.org or call (248) 583-0826.