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MSU Extension launches Keys to Community program
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Low voter turnout may not be a big deal to some Mississippians, but for a group of concerned experts with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, a lack of interest in the election process signals an educational opportunity.
Jason Camp, an Extension associate with the Center for Government and Community Development, said he and his colleagues wanted to boost involvement and interest in local government.
“We discovered that students learn about state and federal government, but in most schools there is no time spent learning about county government,” Camp said. “So we put together a program called The Keys to Community to help young people learn more about the roles different people play in the local system.”
Targeting 14- to 18-year-olds, The Keys to Community program covers a wide range of topics related to county government officials, including sheriffs, county supervisors, judicial officers, tax assessors/collectors, and chancery and circuit clerks.
Launched in Wilkinson and Itawamba counties, the program is designed to be flexible in terms of delivery and audience needs.
“Extension agents can invite guest speakers from the county government agencies or arrange for local history teachers and community leaders to help teach the curriculum,” Camp said. “Some agents will want to offer the content over the course of several months, while others want to present the lessons on a more intensive schedule. We also encourage field trips.”
Ann Davis, Extension coordinator in Wilkinson County, said her first group of participants toured county offices, talked with elected officials and learned to look up deeds and records in the chancery clerk’s office.
“The program not only allowed the young people to learn how their county operates, but also taught them why it was important to be involved in the workings of the county and to have a voice in decisions that affect all individuals living in their county,” Davis said.
In 2016, at least 35 counties will offer The Keys to Community to area teens.
“Our goal is for participants to grow up and be educated voters, and even consider running for office,” Camp said.
For more information about The Keys to Community program, contact Camp at 662-325-3141, or visit http://gcd.msucares.com/keys.