Mayor gives, gets advice from fifth-graders

Vanessa Orozco, 11, had some tips to offer Carson City Mayor Bob Crowell.

"You have to be really responsible and careful about everything you do," she said.

It's what she's learned in her near month-long tenure as mayor of her Mark Twain Elementary fifth-grade class' simulated city, which students dubbed Elmo's World.

Vanessa was elected by her classmates to serve as leader of a five-member city council, also chosen through popular vote.

Other students in the class decided on careers, which had to be approved through the city council. Students earn money for services they provide, and pay for those they require. They also pay for insurance and can play a city lottery.

"It is a wonderfully fun activity that also teaches them about life situations," explained teacher John Test. "They get to experience many things they will face later in their lives, such as what job they would like, and how to pay the rent. They have to make decisions that have actual consequences in our city. From a teaching standpoint it forces them to think at higher levels."

The students invited Crowell into their classroom Friday to attend their city council meeting.

"We thought it would really cool if he could show us how it goes," Vanessa said.

In return for the counsel he received from Vanessa, Crowell offered some advice of his own.

"Be inclusive," he said. "Listen to people. You have to really listen so you can understand them."

The guidance resonated.

"I would take that advice," she said, "because a lot of people in my class have different ideas."

Her newfound wisdom was put to the test almost immediately during the city council meeting.

Some motions - like the one to appoint classmate Brinley Rowley, 11 - as city beautician - passed easily.

"She dresses up really pretty and she does her hair really pretty," reasoned councilwoman Ally Hernandez, 11.

Others, were more controversial. When the motion to approve a trio of boys as the class comedians came before the council, there was a heated debate.

One student reasoned that he had seen them make a whole table of fourth-graders laugh during lunch break. Others said the boys would disrupt the class if it were their job description.

Melissa Andrea, 10, was more to the point.

"I've heard them make jokes at recess, and I don't think they're funny," she said.

The council voted against the threesome. But after Crowell explained the process of reconsidering a motion, the original decision was overturned.

Also during the meeting, one student appealed an excessive noise ticket he received after allegedly yelling "Yahtzee" while the teacher was speaking.

The ticket was upheld.

Crowell was impressed with what he saw of Elmo's World.

"I think it's wonderful, not only from an education standpoint, but from a government standpoint," he said. "This is what we need to succeed as a society, people getting involved."

As for Vanessa, she plans to continue to climb the political ladder.

"I want to be a woman president some day," she said.


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