Students put city officials in the hot seat

They may not have been there to occupy, but the two dozen student government leaders who visited Glendale City Hall on Thursday expressed many of the same concerns as protesters camped out in New York City, Oakland and downtown Los Angeles.

“I feel like way too many people are in debt after college,” said Salar Hajimirsadeghi, 17, a senior at Crescenta Valley High School. “They study so hard to become something in the future, but once they get out, they are just trying to pay the bills. I just don’t think that is right.”

Young people have the right to voice their opinions to effect positive change, others said.

“They call us the generation for change, and I think that really does go into effect when students — not just one, but as a whole — step up to make a point and really present themselves in a way that is professional,” said Ruth Shin, 16, also a Crescenta Valley High School student.

The comments came during the third annual Students in Government Day, hosted by the city of Glendale and designed to introduce young residents to the inner workings of local government. All the participants hold leadership positions at their respective high schools, and many aspire to careers in the public sector.

“Some of these kids are very intelligent, and they have a lot of curiosity, and they are holding office for their student body,” said Zizette Mullins, community relations coordinator with the city. “This helps them to better shape them for future career opportunities.”

The visitors quizzed their hosts — which included elected officials and department heads — about everything from red-light cameras to library services. They also inquired about internship possibilities, and gauged city leaders’ fluency in social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.

While the adults in the room could not speak to hashmarks and status updates, they did encourage the students not to do anything electronically that they wouldn’t want to be forced to explain during a job interview five years later.

“There are some really good people that come through, young people, who really made some stupid mistakes,” said Glendale Fire Deputy Chief Robert Doyle. “Facebook has kept a lot of people out of the fire services.”

Some participants acknowledged that they knew little about the operations of City Hall, adding that Students in Government Day, which in addition to the question-and-answer session and a tour of council chambers, provided them with valuable insight.

“It is good to put a face to a title, and for somebody to personally explain to you what their department does,” said Glendale High School student Mary Manukyan, 17.

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