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The City Journals

Mayor Overson visits Taylorsville High for youth council job shadow day

Mar 02, 2021 01:11PM ● By Carl Fauver

Taylorsville High School student leaders got to fire questions at Mayor Kristie Overson (back center, silver jacket) during one of their recent student government classes. (Courtesy Maddie Van Wagenen)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

A few Taylorsville High School students had a double-take morning recently—as their closed-circuit television school announcements came on in their classrooms—when city Mayor Kristie Overson was among the group telling them about club meetings and schedule changes.

“As the student government class I attended was ending, a couple of the students invited me to join them to go do the morning announcements with them,” Overson said. “They have a great setup with a camera and a teleprompter. It was fun, and I’m sure we surprised a few of the students.”

Overson found her way to the high school, because in this upside-down world the coronavirus has given us, it only made sense that the annual Taylorsville Youth Council job shadow day would have the professional follow the student. Overson was there to shadow Youth Council Mayor Maddie Van Wagenen.

“This is my fourth year on Youth Council, so we decided to change things a little,” Van Wagenen said. “When I was Youth Council recorder last year, I ended up shadowing Mayor Overson at her office. So, when we got paired up again this year, we decided she could come shadow me and speak to our student government class.”

Van Wagenen, who lives in Kearns, is student body historian at THS. She’s also an athlete, having studied karate and taekwondo since age 8. She earned her karate black belt in 2014. And she’s been a member of the Taylorsville golf team for three years as well.

Overson said after visiting the class, she now knows Maddie is one of several strong student leaders at the school.

“There were 15 to 20 students in the class—all elected student leaders—and I watched as they brainstormed plans for their school Spirit Week,” Overson said. “They were taking all of the COVID precautions into consideration. At the end, we talked about the importance of public service. It was great.”

Van Wagenen is one of only a handful of students over the years who have participated in the Taylorsville Youth Council all four of their eligible years. This year she is also one of two youth ambassadors—a position only open to seniors—along with Savannah Medico. That duty normally includes attending several business ribbon-cutting ceremonies. But, as you’d expect, COVID has taken a bite out of that too.

“I’ve only been to two or three ribbon cuttings this year, which is kind of disappointing,” Maddie said. “[Coronavirus] has changed a lot [in youth council] this year. But we’ve made the best of it.”

Taylorsville City Council Coordinator and Youth Council Adviser Kris Heineman agrees, the year has been rough for her smaller-than-usual council.

“We normally have 15 to 18 youth council members, but this year we have only 13, and no ninth graders,” Heineman said. “The pandemic was new during our application period, and we didn’t get as many as usual. Normally, I go to the junior highs to tell student leaders about the council. But last year we couldn’t do that.”

Coronavirus also cancelled the youth council’s annual Day at the Legislature along with the student leadership conference they normally attend each spring at Utah State University. However, the pandemic also prompted the council to begin a new tradition: conducting a holiday season food drive.

“Our council members went around their neighborhoods gathering food donations, and it was very successful,” Heineman added. “We ended up with three pickup trucks filled with donations for the Taylorsville Food Pantry.”

Earlier in the fall, youth council members also volunteered time to clean up a Taylorsville yard.

“We coordinated with our code enforcement department to identify a home that needed a lot of work,” Heineman said. “I don’t even know how many garbage bags we filled, but it was a lot. We will probably find another home and do the same thing this spring.”

Another first for the youth council came soon after Christmas when they were recruited to assist with the distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) to area schools, fire stations and other locations. The PPE was donated by online marketing giant Amazon and facilitated by Taylorsville City Councilman Dan Armstrong.

As for Maddie, much as she loves Utah, she hopes to be far, far away in a few months.

“My dream school to attend college this fall is George Washington University (in Washington, D.C.) where I plan to study international relations,” she said. “I’m currently taking Intro to International Relations online, through the University of Utah. My goal is to work for the state department and one day be a diplomat. I want to satisfy my wanderlust for the world.”

It's a lofty goal, but Overson believes high achievements are possible for a number of the students she met at Taylorsville High.

“They are top-notch kids who are clearly thinking outside the box,” she said. “It was fun to see our future is in great hands. I hope to see some of these students working in Taylorsville city government in 10 to 20 years.”