Dinwiddie’s ‘Government Day’ recognized by Virginia Association of Counties

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: October 26, 2019 | 1:45 p.m. 

Fifth VACo Achievement Award for Dinwiddie since 2012

DINWIDDIE – Today, dozens of Dinwiddie High School students are making tough decisions and taking on the challenge of balancing a budget as they partake in the popular Government Day exercise but, days earlier, Dinwiddie County was recognized by the Virginia Association of Counties for the innovative partnership between the county and schools.

During the Dinwiddie Board of Supervisors meeting last week, supervisors were joined by Phyllis Errico, General Counsel for VACo, the organization that supports the legislative efforts of the Commonwealth’s counties, as she presented Dinwiddie County with an Achievement Award for the county’s Government Day initiative, which is entering its seventh year.

Dinwiddie’s Government Day event was one of 96 submissions received during this year’s round of considerations and one of 26 to be selected for recognition.

The initiative allows students to work through certain scenarios that give them a feel for how their local government functions on a daily basis. Of late, Dinwiddie High School Government students have been broken up into small working groups where they serve as supervisors who are tasked with balancing a budget in the face of nearly $2 million in requests from county departments, with representatives of those departments joining students in the mock budget exercise.

To help in their decision-making efforts, each board is paired with an actual member of the Dinwiddie Board of Supervisors, who provide insight to the students as they worked through the financials of each proposal and debated the merits of each within the constraints of their limited funding. The students also have county department heads at their disposal to ask detailed questions about their proposals, which become more complex as the student-supervisors analyzed how to fund certain initiatives, be it through leasing or only providing a partial amount of what was requested, be it equipment or funding.

The timing of this year’s recognition is fitting as students are scheduled to gather at the Robert and Betty Ragsdale Community Center in McKenney for another mock supervisors and expected to be on hand for the event is Dinwiddie County Board of Supervisors Chairman William Chavis, who has always been vocal in his support of initiatives like Government Day.

“A strong workforce benefits the local economy, which was part of the reason this Board chose to make youth workforce development a priority in Dinwiddie County,” the chairman remarked. “We are proud of the programs that have been developed through this initiative, and awards like this prove that Dinwiddie County is doing it right.”

In years past, County Administrator Kevin Massengill has called Government Day one of his favorite days of the year for the unique opportunity it allows the county’s young people to take part in, be it those at the exercise or those who will learn valuable lessons from back at Dinwiddie High from those who took part in the event.

“I think back to when I was in school when individuals were able to come and broaden my vision to different careers and professions, for us to be able to give back and go to students to acclimate them to how government works and what it’s all about,” he said. “We have been doing this enough now that we are starting to see children who have moved on and then they come back and say they were a part of the Government Day class. Being able to relate that way is a very genuine way of us being able to help the students and give them a better perspective of what we do.”

Over the last several years, Dinwiddie County has become a regional example of cooperative partnerships between county departments and school divisions as a number of initiatives have been created and flourished, including the county’s Teen Expo, which seeks to engage the county’s teenage population with fun activities, panel discussions, and other exercises to prepare them for their next steps to adulthood, to more recent events like the Live Well Expo and the Back-to-School Bash.

“With all of our valuable partnerships for these programs, we know this can only help to bring everyone together and make us all better,” Carly Woolfolk, Director of Secondary Education & CTE for Dinwiddie County Public Schools shared. “It also helps us to stay abreast of the current needs for our students and to be able to provide them with learning experiences beyond the classroom walls.”

She noted, while recognition, like the one received by VACo, are nice, the value programs like Government Day and others provide to Dinwiddie County’s young people are immeasurable.

“While it is nice to be recognized, the value of the program for our students as they transition into becoming productive citizens of our county is of the utmost importance,” Woolfolk said. “These high school seniors are learning to understand the priorities and decisions of local government as they are mentored by our local leaders. This is so timely as they are nearing or at voting age as they prepare to graduate this year.”

Always at the exercises is Dinwiddie Schools Superintendent Dr. Kari Weston, who shared her thoughts on the importance of the Government Day exercise during the Spring 2019 session in McKenney.

“This is what our work is all about,” Weston said. “This is education with a purpose at its best and I am so grateful that we live in a community that shares that same understanding and purpose that we are indeed educating our workforce. Something like this is so important and it is great to have such a solid partnership with the county that assists us with this effort.”

According to Dinwiddie County officials and VACo, this is the fifth Achievement Award the county has won in the 17 years the organization has offered the program. In past years, the county was honored for their achievements with the Dinwiddie Sports Complex, the county’s “Ready to Hire” program, the Robert and Betty Ragsdale Community Center in McKenney, and Dinwiddie’s youth workforce development program.

To learn more about the Virginia Association of Counties and their Achievement Award program, visit the organization’s website at http://vaco.org.

Copyright 2019 by Womack Publishing
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