The Madera Unified School District Career Technical Education Department in partnership with the City of Madera hosted its very first High School Citizens’ Academy. The academy brought a group of high school seniors together with civic leaders and government officials. The students had the opportunity to meet with officials monthly throughout the school year. The goal of the program is to build relationships and to create future leaders who will help guide Madera.
“I graduated from the City’s Vision Leadership Academy last year,” said Madera High School Instructor, Tim Riche’. “The amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to keep a city running smoothly is overwhelming. As an educator, it got me thinking, how can we get the school district involved with this?” Riche’ reached out to contacts he made within the city during his participation with the academy, and the two agencies arranged a program specifically for Madera High School. “Local government partnering with the school district to bring this program to our youth, our future, this is what it’s all about. These students are our next generation of leaders.”
Participants learned about how Madera City government is set up and met with Madera Mayor Andy Medellin, and councilmembers Charles Rigby and Will Oliver. They also met with the Chief of Police, City Administrator, Fire Chief, Parks and Recreation Director and Redevelopment Agency Staff. After meetings, students participated in workshops and learned of the complexities local government officials face. In one workshop, participants gained insight into the difficulties involved in planning the build-out of a park. Students were provided a budget and instructed to design a park that would best serve the needs of their community.
“Adding things like lights, and parking is expensive,” said one student. “You don’t think about these things until you’re in a situation where you are forced to choose between an exciting amenity you really want, and something else really critical, like a restroom.” he continued. “That was really eye opening.”
“In a perfect world we would have all of these amenities,” said Parks Director Mary Anne Seay. “Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. These are the types of decisions we have to make every time we advance a capital project.” Seay continued. “We are challenged to find resources and we often phase projects over time. The new accessible playground we built at Centennial Park, for example, was built using resources from 7 different pots ranging from grants, to foundation resources, to local donations.”
The Citizens Academy will conclude on April 18th with a tour of City Hall, followed by a graduation ceremony set to begin at 9:30am and end at 10:00am. Students will be presented with certificates, and $700 in scholarships will be awarded from the Linkage Foundation. There will be a brief reception following the graduation ceremony with elected officials and staff, including MUSD Superintendent Todd Lile.