By: Vivian Duncan and Hannah Johnson
Newnan High School hosted a Civics Day Friday, October 21st, where local politicians and community leaders came to the NHS auditorium and spoke directly to high school students about their roles in public service.
The speakers helped to give students a deeper understanding of the way that the community around them works. They connected their political, social and civil responsibilities to a human face.
Throughout the day, different classes listened to several groups of guests from various areas of public and civil service in Coweta County and the state. The students who attended belonged to Mrs. Welch’s, Mrs. Cornay’s, Mr. Willem’s, Mrs. Pitt’s and Mr. Garner’s government classes.
There were representatives from each section of public service ranging from government, military, law enforcement, judiciary branches and the school system. Mike Yeager, Coweta County Sheriff, Keith Brady, Mayor of Newnan, Brad Bohannon, a lobbyist for the Georgia Lottery Corporation, Matt Brass, Georgia State Senator-elect, Beth Barnett, Coweta County School Board member, Rhodes Shell, Newnan City Councilman, and Joseph Wyant, Coweta County Juvenile Court Judge were all present.
Once each guest had a chance to speak, there was an opportunity to answer questions from the students, and the speakers gave them advice about their future careers and ways to become involved in public service and politics. Each guest had excellent advice for the students as well as important and insightful perspectives for all members of the audience to learn something new.
Mike Yeager, Coweta County Sheriff, started his career in law enforcement almost thirty-eight years ago as a police officer, and he has now served as sheriff for twenty-four years.
When the time came to answer students’ questions, one student asked him what encourages him to stay in his field even in times of adversity. He responded, “I want young men and women to see that this is a good and noble profession. As a society
today, we all have to get it right.”
Later on, he added, “I truly believe that we all as a community, we all need training. We all need education.”
Taniya Washington, a ninth grade student at NHS, was inspired by the speakers and explained how she gained a deeper appreciation for how people do not always have to be perfect but try to “just do the right thing.” She continued to express how she really enjoyed hearing Sheriff Yeager speak about his job and profession as well as his advice to the high school students.
Brad Hughes, Georgia Republican Party Political Director, discussed how what students do in high school and on the internet affects their ability to be involved in public service later in life.
“What you put on social media is always there. When I hire somebody, I look at their social media. Things come back and haunt you,” Hughes said. “Do the right thing, because it’s the right thing. Be a good solid person of good morals and character.”
Hughes continued, “Doing the right thing gets you farther than any amount of money or political connections.”
Matt Brass, State Senator-elect, graduated from Newnan High School in 1996. Recalling his memories as a high school and college student, he said, “when I started putting others above myself, life is so much more enjoyable. So, I encourage you to be involved.”
Brass worked for Congressman Lynn Westmoreland alongside Brad Bohannon, his Chief of Staff at the time.
Andrew Lewis, NHS senior in AP Government, commented, “I learned a lot more about public roles, public leaders and the community. I was very interested in Brad Bohannan and Matt Brass’s job for Congressman Westmoreland in D.C.”
Brant Amoroso, NHS senior, told us that he was impressed by the interdependence of government and how all of the public service professions work together, but his favorite speaker was Mayor Brady.
“I think he tried to focus on non-partisan issues, especially in a time when the country is so focused on politics,” Amoroso explained.
Mayor Brady took office in 1994, and his wife and two children have all graduated from Newnan High School. He discussed how the Newnan Youth Council can be a great opportunity to get involved in the city and community, as well as “being engaged and being involved in the process.”
Judge Joseph Wyant discussed his work in both the juvenile court and family treatment court with students, giving them a better perspective on both. He explained when a person goes through the family treatment court, there is a large chance of not going back into the system. Individuals are drug tested weekly, aided in obtaining their GED and trained for a profession as well as other programs to help them establish a path to a better life.
Each speaker, in their own way and discussing their own area of expertise, seemed to be able to strike a chord with the crowd of teenagers and inspire them to see the world with a larger perspective.
Connor Bailey, NHS Freshman, told us that through the event, he came to the realization that, “They’re all just really watching out for us, and they are here for us.”
The students enjoyed listening to the different speakers, laughing at their jokes, meeting professionals from different career fields and asking questions. At the end of the event, the whole auditorium applauded and walked away with a better understanding of civil service.