COLUMBIA — Megan Wormington sat at the foot of the projector and began to read off her group’s PowerPoint presentation. The pink title screen illuminated the dimly lit room and the audience. It was titled, “Snow Days,” with, “The cold this winter isn’t just extreme, it’s expensive,” at the bottom of the slide.
Wormington, a student at Lange Middle School, was one of several eighth graders who voiced concerns on city issues Friday. Wormington's presentation was about Columbia's snow removal.
“We’ve had so much trouble in the past with accidents and people getting seriously injured because of those accidents,” Wormington said in a later interview. “I’m hoping that if we treat the roads in a better way and get the snow melted, people can get to work. It makes the roads safer, (and) we’ll be happier in our environment and community.”
Wormington worked with a group of her peers on the presentation as part of Columbia Comes Alive!, a summer school program that has developed over the past year.
Marc Alexander, a Smithton Middle School instructor, and Heather Cole, assistant to the city manager, collaborated to make a program that allows students to have an outlet to voice those concerns.
“Democracy only works if citizens take part. That’s really what this experience is about,” Alexander said. “No matter who you are, your group is going to present. Democracy is for everybody."
The first group of students arrived in the morning, and another group was scheduled to arrive at noon. Students were prepared to give a presentation on topics including increasing the minimum wage and creating a new skate park.
Columbia officials sat in on topics that related to their fields: Lt. Scott Young of the Columbia Police Department listened to a presentation about crime and violence, and Recreation Services Manager Erika Coffman was present for Wormington's talk about snow removal.
She explained to the students in the room the importance of being able to share their insight on issues they are passionate about.
"It's important to share your insight because if not, we're only hearing one side of the issue," Coffman said. "We do need to hear your feedback at all ages and all levels."
After sleepless nights worrying about the event, Alexander said he thought it went well.
“The students by and large rose to the occasion and got something out of it," Alexander said. They'll "come away hopefully with the feelings that they too can have a role someday in some capacity with civic responsibility.”
Supervising editor is Seth Klamann.