Model citizens: Williamburg middle-schoolers to form mock community board

Model citizens: Williamburg middle-schoolers to form mock community board

Forget model United Nations — these kids are doing model Community Board!

Tweens at a Williamsburg middle-school will mimic the magic of local government in a new program that places students into mock panels to discuss, debate, and vote like real-life community advisory boards — and, if all goes to plan, serve as a gateway to the actual thing.

“Our long range goal is, within five years, some of the kids in seventh-grade right now might be on the community board,” said John Agnello assistant principal of Juan Morel Campos Secondary School.

The Heyward Street school will be the first junior high in the borough to test-drive a new social-studies unit that puts seventh-graders in the model boards — under the guidance of their actual local community board — with the aim of hooking youngsters on civic engagement.

The program — which will kick off with a single class in March but could eventually encompass the entire school — is a roughly two-week crash course in the community board process, introducing students to the largely powerless local panels that advise city agencies on issues such as issuing liquor licenses, landmarking buildings, and new bike lanes.

The workshop will culminate in the mock board that will debate and vote on a proposal regarding a local issue.

The scholars will get to witness the firebrands of Community Board 1 in action at the panel’s Ainslie Street headquarters, before various members visit the pupils in class to teach them about the board’s different roles, all preparing the youngsters for their big debut on a board of their own.

Agnello and his colleagues pitched the idea to Community Board 1’s education committee a few weeks ago, and the chairman says he and his fellow members are totally on board.

“It’s a great idea — getting our kids active in civic activities that are important, and for them to get a sense of what goes on in a community,” said Tommy Torres. “There’s not enough of that being taught in middle-school and in high-school.”

The only foreseeable problem is the board’s notoriously long-winded debates, that sometimes drag on well past kids’ bed times.

“That’s something we gotta talk about,” said Torres.

Borough President Adams is also gung-ho about the exercise — the city opened membership up to 16-year-olds this year, and he has already appointed teens to six Brooklyn boards. Eventually, he hopes to have high-schoolers sitting on every panel in the borough, he said.

“It is never too early to get our young people involved in civic life,” said Adams.

The model board happens to coincide with a new class of real-life board members — the Beep is accepting applications for prospective members until Feb. 15, now with a Millennial-friendly online form at brooklyn-usa.org/community-board-membership-application.

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at ahobb[email protected]local.com or by calling (718) 260–8312.

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