Michelle Hauser, 17, recalls driving through the Superstorm Sandy–ravaged sections of her hometown of Oceanside 19 months ago. She explained that she remembers asking her father why construction workers from California and Arkansas were repairing utility poles in the neighborhood, but he didn’t know the answer.
Only recently did she learn who arranged for them to make the repairs –– Town of Hempstead officials. The Oceanside High School junior gained insight into how the town responds to emergencies like Superstorm Sandy during a mock hurricane drill at Hempstead’s annual Students in Government Day on May 22.
“I realize now that local government does a lot more than anyone thinks,” she said. “Everybody has a lot on their plate, but they are all happy to be here and devoted to making this a good place to live.”
Hauser took on Town Supervisor Kate Murray’s role during the daylong program, while 11 other local high school students were “sworn in” as department heads. “Commissioners” had to prepare for a hurricane.
A number of students said their social studies teachers recommended that they apply for the program because they have demonstrated an interest in politics. They had to write essays as part of their applications.
The students shadowed commissioners at various town departments, learning about what they do on a daily basis and their responsibilities in preparing for an emergency. Murray said the mock hurricane drill was an ideal structure for Students in Government Day for two reasons: a weather emergency requires commissioners to communicate and work together, and the effects of Superstorm Sandy are still being felt across the South Shore.
“With Hurricane Sandy fresh on their minds, every student in the room can grasp the severity of this situation very intimately,” she said. “The students are often surprised by all of the complicating factors and the things they would have to think about. It gives them a quick insight as to what it takes to run a governmental department in the face of an emergency.”
Students took on various roles, including:
n Supervisor: Hauser, of Oceanside High School.
n Town Attorney: Johnny Wiley Jr., Uniondale High School.