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South Jordan Journal

Welby Elementary student council gets a first-hand glimpse of state government

Mar 31, 2023 12:15PM ● By Julie Slama

Welby Elementary student council stands on the steps outside of the Utah State Capitol they visited on PTSA’s Day at the Capitol. (Josh Glover/Welby Elementary)

Welby Elementary student council members had the opportunity to sit in the House at the state capitol to watch discussion on a bill that wouldn’t require individuals with special needs to repay their training should they accept a job offer elsewhere.

“We saw the voting and it passed,” Welby sixth-grade teacher and student council adviser Josh Glover said. “It was almost unanimous, which I think is pretty rare. I used to teach fifth grade and we talked a lot about the division of government and how laws are made. It was a cool connection, and they probably hadn’t been able to experience before.”

The 10 Welby sixth-graders, Glover and other adviser Rachael Quinney were participating in PTSA’s Day at the Capitol on Feb. 9, where Welby’s student leaders joined about 100 other students for not only a capitol tour, but also to participate in a mock debate in the senate rooms.

“Our day started with a wonderful speech that explained how our government in the capitol works and we learned about leadership,” he said. “The main takeaway from the speech was to be successful at communicating. You have to be willing to extend an invitation and not necessarily demand someone to talk to you. I think that’s a good approach for our student council, as they’re working with their peers and leading activities and building relationships.”

Two Welby students were chosen to participate in a mock debate. The topic: should social media be restricted for people up to 18 years of age?

“One of my students who participated in the debate was very excited because she had been discussing that with her parents. She really wants to get a social media account and she made some good points,” he said.

Points in favor ranged from being connected to family and others outside of school and being able to share ideas to those against saying they’d be able to avoid cyberbullying or being exposed to pornography.

“There wasn’t really a winning side, but it just was a cool opportunity for the other students to watch and soak in,” he said, adding that it designed to give students a better understanding of discussions that happen in the legislature. 

Glover said on the tour, the students were impressed with the grandness of the rotunda, the paintings of the state leaders in the Hall of Governors, the historical murals and statues placed around the capitol and the lavish gold-leaf furnishings in the state reception room, commonly referred to as the Gold Room.

However, he said the students also appreciated some commonly “overlooked” sights, such as the elevators, the marble staircases and columns, and the beehive symbols throughout the capitol. 

“I had a lot of students mention all of the little fine details throughout this tour like the tiling on the floor and how it looked like honeycomb,” he said. “They asked questions about why the Gold Room was important, how old the capitol is and how much money and time it took to build it.” 

While the day’s sessions didn’t allow their local legislative leaders to meet with the young leaders, Glover said, they did see Utah State University President Noelle Cockett during their visit and were entertained by a musical performance.

“It was a great opportunity for our students,” he said. “I hope they remember getting to see the law in action because a lot of times kids hear about it or they learn about it in school, but it’s just not very real yet. So, getting to go to the capitol and witnessing legislators voting and passing bills and laws is memorable. I think getting to participate in that debate was a big deal for them because they are modeling what is happening at the capitol. Debate skills are huge and will help them academically and in their leadership at the school.”

Welby sixth-grade students in good academic standing and citizenship are chosen for student council based on their application, essays and teacher input in the fall. Throughout the year, the student leaders are responsible for weekly student announcements, making videos to demonstrate school rules, collecting paper recycling at the school and an annual fundraiser. This year, they held a holiday giving tree to help families in need in South Jordan and West Jordan.