Two ordinances were approved last week in the N. John Amato Council Chambers at Cherry Hill Town Hall. One was to implement an organic diversion program at Cherry Hill’s two high schools, while the other formed a civic society and implemented a digital application to help increase voter turnout during elections.
However, the Cherry Hill Township Council didn’t approve these ordinances. A student-led council was presiding for one evening.
And while the ordinances the mock council approved aren’t official, they could be the springboard for future township initiatives.
This mock council meeting was the culmination of Student Government Day, an annual tradition in Cherry Hill. More than a dozen juniors from both Cherry Hill High School East and West spent the day working as members of the township staff would.
During the day, the students were split into two groups, with each group tasked with creating an initiative to better the township. Ordinances were written, later discussed and voted on during a mock council meeting at night.
Student Government Day is not just a day for high school students to learn about how Cherry Hill works; it’s all a chance for the township to learn something from its youth. Mayor Chuck Cahn said the township has taken a closer look at initiatives students have brought about in past years.
“To see the idea of voter turnout and recycling, these are the things that can really make a difference,” Cahn said.
The group proposing the organic diversion program took a look at the amount of organic waste and Styrofoam trays used at the high schools. Their proposed program would eliminate the use of Styrofoam trays and purchase composters to allow the organic waste to be used as a fertilizer for the schools’ gardens and sports fields.
“We all had to work together to figure out how to reduce the waste we send off to recycling plants and landfills,” Cherry Hill East student Jacob DeBlecourt said.
The group working on voter turnout had the idea of creating a civic society consisting of volunteer high school students who would promote voter registration, especially for adults ages 18 to 25. They also wanted to create a digital app to better inform the public about elections.
“A lot of ideas we had were about awareness,” Cherry Hill West student Niara Wilcox said. “We found a common problem people had was they didn’t know when elections were going on or didn’t know how to register.”
One of the discoveries the students made during the day was the work township staff and council put into creating ordinances. Many were surprised at the amount of research needed to create ordinances and resolutions.
“There’s a lot of different issues facing the council,” Cherry Hill East student Andrew Bowen said. “It was definitely fun seeing how they approach them.”
“I thought people just sat around, making rules,” Wilcox said. “But there’s actually a lot that goes on behind it.”
Cherry Hill East student Lee Rosen-Swell had the privilege of being mayor for Student Government Day this year. After learning about the title and responsibilities coming with it, he discovered the mayor is just one person out of many who keep the township running from day-to-day.
“The mayor is kind of like any other person,” Rosen-Swell said. “I felt like I could do a lot with the cooperation of the council.”
At the end of the day, the students came away with a better knowledge of how local government works. Cahn also felt the students came away with confidence they can make a difference in their town.
“Seeing the enthusiasm and the knowledge these kids have, it’s really a great pleasure seeing our future is in great hands,” he said.