Buffalo Grove, Stevenson students learn how village government works

Buffalo Grove, Stevenson students learn how village government works

Last week's Buffalo Grove village board meeting featured some new faces on the dais.

Buffalo Grove and Stevenson high school students sat where the trustees, village clerk and village president normally sit.

Meanwhile, the real trustees watched “themselves” from the audience, while Village President Beverly Sussman sat on one side of the council chambers taking copious notes.

The students, under the guidance of Advanced Placement government teachers Andrew Conneen of Stevenson and Zach Crandall of Buffalo Grove High, assumed the roles of elected leaders and village staff as part of Buffalo Grove's annual Civics Forum.

“The value to these students is to not take municipal government, local government, for granted,” Conneen said. “In the classrooms, they are studying U.S. government. But on a day-to-day basis, where the water comes from, who is plowing the streets, that is not Congress. That's the village of Buffalo Grove.”

The student trustees considered a series of proposals culled from the wish lists of village departments. The proposals, each capped at $2,000 in costs, were presented by students acting as village staffers.

  Buffalo Grove and Stevenson high school students pose for a group photo last week after taking part in the village of Buffalo Grove's annual Civics Forum. The event gives students a chance to learn about local government and play the roles of town leaders. Steve Zalusky/

The measure winning the board's approval was floated by Buffalo Grove High students Billy Matt and Sean Hodgson, who sought a commercial-grade bench and picnic table, along with minor landscaping improvements, for the area outside the police station's main entrance.

“There is no seating available outside of the police station,” Matt said. “On first inspection, this may seem to be a nonissue. However, this is, in actuality, a critical problem.”

The seating area would provide a safe and welcoming environment for residents to meet with police officers.

“The police station serves as a kind of home for the entire community,” Hodgson said. “Every home should feel comfortable to walk into. The current space has no seating whatsoever, no place of rest, no inviting atmosphere for the residents of Buffalo Grove.”

Buffalo Grove police officer Meghan Hansen was impressed by the presentation.

“They were able to think on their feet and gave very concise answers,” she said.

Village Clerk Jan Sirabian introduced the session and said participating students spent the afternoon brushing up on municipal government and touring the village campus, “their favorites being the fire truck and the jail cells.”

  Stevenson High School student Victor Shi and Buffalo Grove High School student Mia Shiakallis make their case for a multipurpose kiosk at the village hall during the Buffalo Grove Civics Forum. Steve Zalusky/

“One of these topics that they choose will be implemented,” Sirabian added, noting that the video board in the village hall lobby is a project that resulted from the Civics Forum two years ago.

Under the leadership of Village President Ethan Melman (Stevenson), trustees Jamie Lisinski (Stevenson), Noa Givati (Stevenson), Danny Zhang (Stevenson), Melissa Gibbs (Buffalo Grove), Sophia Chumbley (Buffalo Grove) and Abbey Finn (Buffalo Grove) took to their adopted roles like seasoned veterans, asking probing questions of the students acting as staff members.

Filling out the roster on the dais was Village Manager Oscar Godinez (Buffalo Grove) and Village Clerk Quinn Donahue (Buffalo Grove).

“They're starting to realize that the decisions that are made here can impact them much more than the decisions made downstate or at the federal level,” Crandall said.

Other proposals during the event included:

Stevenson's Joyce Bai proposed a new automated external defibrillator (AED) for the Fire Station 26 training room.

Lea Karpov and Wedad Osman of Buffalo Grove High quoted Sussman in their presentation for a video that would boost volunteerism in the village: “Volunteers don't get paid, not because they're worthless, but because they're priceless.”

Veronica Chernik and Connor Wieglos of Buffalo Grove High pitched an undercarriage cleaner for public works equipment and vehicles.

Victor Shi of Stevenson and Mia Shiakallis of Buffalo Grove High suggested a multipurpose kiosk at the village hall that would enable residents to learn how to use forms on the village website.

Erin Fitzgerald of Stevenson advanced the concept of an onboarding kit for new village employees, including a padfolio and a pen with the village logo.

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