On Thursday, October 2, 2014, students from Mr. Lee’s U.S. history class had the unique opportunity to learn about how local and state governments work.  Lawrence County received a $5,000 4H grant dedicated to educating youth on Citizenship/Leadership that made this program possible.  Elected officials from the county and representatives from the county extension office prepared a program that introduced students to the basic structure of their county government.  The officials included County Judge, Dale Freeman; County Clerk, Tina Stowers; and State Representative, James Ratliff.  Representatives from the county extension office, Herb Ginn, Bryce Baldridge, and Katrina Burch, assisted with the program.

County Judge, Dale Freeman, explained to students how he oversees the county government and the road department.  County Clerk, Tina Stowers, described the duties and responsibilities of the clerk’s office.  She explained that she’s responsible for issuing marriage licenses, voter registrations, and elections. State Representative, James Ratliff talked about the responsibilities that are associated with being a state representative and how he shares the duty of balancing a state budget.  An example that was discussed was the state prison system and how much it cost to imprison an inmate.  During the afternoon session, Jim Jones visited with the students and explained how the Quorum Court works and the duties and responsibilities that are associated with being a Justice of the Peace.

Class members filled out a questionnaire to see how much they understood about the county government.  Students enjoyed a catered lunch which included ham and turkey sandwiches, chips, pies, and sweet tea.  Afterward they debated the pros and cons of both wet and dry counties.  Students filled out a mock voter registration, while Tina Stowers explained how voting machines work.  Two voting machines were set up and students voted on the wet/ dry issue. The results were a close 24 (wet) to 21 (dry).

On Thursday, October 9, the U.S. History class visited the state capital, Little Rock.  They were accompanied by Herb Ginn and Katrina Burch from the county extension office.  They visited the Arkansas State Capitol, where Mr. Ratliff served as the tour guide.  On the second floor they visited the Governor’s Reception Room. This room is both a public room and the governor’s conference space.  It is used for staff meetings, press conferences, bill signings and other public events.  The Rotunda is a beautiful space used to host public meetings, weddings, hearings and rallies. Then they went to the Old Supreme Court Chamber, located at the south end of the building.  The Arkansas Supreme Court met in this chamber from 1912 through 1958.  Increased caseloads and other considerations caused the Supreme Court to move to the Justice Building.  Above the staircase leading up to the third floor are four beautiful hand painted murals.  On the third floor they visited the State Senate room.  Afterward the class enjoyed browsing the Capital gift shop on the first floor.

After lunch they headed to the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, which had beautiful Chihuly exhibits all throughout the Library.  On the second floor, they first visited the Cabinet Room, which is set up to look like the one in the White House.  Some of the exhibits included: Caring, which told about how President Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton wanted to improve the lives of people; and Bringing People Together, which explained how Clinton brought people with different views together to talk about their problems.  Then students headed up to the third floor, and viewed more exhibits about his life in the White House.  They also visited a replica of the Oval Office.

The students enjoyed their meeting and the Little Rock trip and are grateful to those who made this event possible.

Thanks to Ammity Rose for writing this article and taking pictures.
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