GIBSON CITY - Two Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High School students are learning about government, but not in the classroom.
Juniors Seth Dickey, 17, and Lucas Lange, 16, are the first two participants in Gibson City's junior alderman program.
Mayor Dan Dickey, who took office last year, established the program to teach youths about how local government works and to introduce council members to the youths' point of view.
"I have learned how the city is run, where the money comes from and where it goes," said Lange, son of Mark and Lisa Lange.
Mayor Dickey said he hopes the program will "develop future leaders and motivate them to be involved in public service." He may get his wish.
"This experience has probably changed my future," Lange said. "I will definitely consider public service."
Seth Dickey, son of Dan and Paula Dickey, said he enjoys the experience - and not just because his father is the mayor.
"Everyone should have the opportunity to get involved with their local government," Seth Dickey said.
A junior alderman must be a high school junior or senior with at least a B average, exhibit leadership qualities and write an essay explaining why he or she wants to be a junior alderman. Candidates then are recommended for participation by Michael Lindy, GCMS High School principal.
The teens began their terms in 2005, just as any other council member does - with a swearing in ceremony and an oath to faithfully discharge their duties, said City Clerk Vickie Lorenzen.
Lorenzen calls for the two junior aldermen to cast their votes during each roll call. Those votes, however, are not counted and not part of the official minutes.
"They vote what they feel and we encourage that," the mayor said.
Council members Nelda Jordan and John Carlson serve as the teens' mentors. They sit next to the junior aldermen and help them understand agenda topics and meeting procedure.
Seth Dickey is active in FFA, an Eagle Scout and an honor roll student who has been named the school's Ag Student of the Year multiple times. His future plans include attending college, but currently he is unsure of a college major.
Lange is an honor roll student who plays football and baseball and enjoys graphic design in the art club. He plays the French horn in the school's concert band and guitar during worship at the Gibson City United Methodist Church.
He has competed at the University of Illinois Engineering Open House and plans to continue his education with a goal of becoming an automotive shop instructor.