The Kiwanis Club of Radford sponsored the 56th Annual Students in Government Day on Thursday, where students from Radford High School assumed the roles of city leaders and first responders to learn more about the inner workings those roles represent.
“Nell Hatcher started this 56 years ago and it’s a great experience for the students. They gain an appreciation for the work it takes to make Radford great,” Radford High School principal Jeff Smith said.
Over 90 students took part in running the city Thursday, touring various government facilities and familiarizing themselves with the necessary equipment and complex machinery that keeps the city running smoothly on a daily basis.
The program has produced some of Radford’s current leaders as well. City Manager David Ridpath, Fire Chief Lee Simpkins, Sheriff Mark Armentrout, Building Official Tim Nester, and former city engineer and current city councilman Bobby Nicolson, are just a few of the RHS graduates that played roles during Students in Government Day when they were seniors, and are now working for the city — some in the very positions they portrayed.
Students began the day at the high school with a welcome by government teacher Wayne Pridgen and City Engineer Jim Hurt, also the president of the Radford Kiwanis Club. Paired up with their city counterparts, students left the school for tours and activities.
Mike Goad, an engineer at the Little River Dam hydroelectric plant, gave tours of the facility that included descending into the dam itself. Students were led down flights of stairs to the turbine room and then into the cavernous area inside the dam.
Radford water treatment plant chief operator Wade Vanhoy conducted tours of the treatment plant as well. He explained how water is processed and made fit to drink and pointed out some of the issues the plant and its workers face when flooding occurs on the New River.
The city’s electricity department conducted tours directed by department head Bill Willis. Students were shown how electricity is routed and how the department responds to outages.
The City Manager’s office, constitutional officers, the finance department, public works, public library, Recreation Department, School Board, Social Services, and voter registrar’s office were all taken over by students.
In addition, students adopted the roles of emergency services personnel as well, and were put to the test with a series of mock accidents and disasters.
A mock automobile accident was staged on Veteran’s Field that included the participation of fire, police, Radford EMS and a Carilion Lifeguard helicopter. An accident between two cars was staged, complete with a fatality and two critically injured occupants. The staged accident was caused by a drunk driver, who was given a field sobriety test while the fire department used various power tools to extract the injured occupants of a nearby pickup truck. The Lifeguard helicopter arrived and a seriously injured person was transferred into the airborne vehicle.
Students acting as firemen wore the position’s full regalia. Students milled around the accident scene, trying to get a good look at how rescue workers use precise tools to cut open a car to remove an injured person inside, and witnessed the care taken to immobilize a victim to prevent further injury.
At noon a mock City Council meeting was convened in the council chambers. Prior to the meeting Bobby Nicholson, Tim Cox and other councilmen briefed the acting students. RHS seniors Matt Turk, Walter Mogen, Daniel Hawke, Hunter Marshall and Jeff Feng served as councilmen.
The meeting agenda included special resolutions to recognize the Kiwanis Club, choral director Lois Castonguay, band director Daniel Frankenberger, and political science teacher Dr. Nicholas Pappas.
The students discussed bringing more sports tourism to Radford and converting the old railroad bridge near Radford University into a walking and biking path. They also considered creating an Art in the Park festival.
Following the City Council meeting, a luncheon, hosted by the Kiwanis Club for all participants, including city employees, was held at the high school. The luncheon program included remarks by Kiwanis President Jim Hurt and student mayor Matt Turk.
By Charlie Whitescarver