Prince William County Human Rights Commission is gathering applications for next year’s Human Rights Student Leadership Council and is looking for high school students interested in learning about local, state and federal government, civics and leadership.
Sophomores, juniors and seniors enrolled in Prince William County public, private and home schools are eligible to apply for the council, said Denise McPhail, staff advisor to the Human Rights Student Leadership Council.
The council offers students the chance to meet elected government officials and county staff to learn about government through the lens of human rights enforcement. McPhail said, “We also use the Youth at Work program to teach students how to identify discrimination in the workplace. The students then teach their peers at an annual student leadership conference hosted by Prince William County Public Schools.”
Each year, since the council’s formation three years ago, the students have visited the Virginia General Assembly to meet with their representatives. Last year, Delegate Luke Torian and Senator Jeremy McPike introduced the students on the floor of the General Assembly.
Andrew Diaz, a rising senior at St. John Paul the Great High School who is planning to return to the council this year, said being on the council was a good learning experience where he learned about government and human rights. “The student leadership council has helped to increase my understanding of government by allowing me to see how the government works, specifically the Virginia Assembly. I got to know my representatives better and saw the different parts of the government.”
Kamilah Coleman, the council historian and a charter member of the council, said she too enjoyed meeting Virginia delegates and senators. “My number one favorite and most memorable experience was visiting our Virginia delegates. Being able to express our concerns and having a platform to possibly make change was very good. Before joining the HRSLC I had very little knowledge about government, but through the program I have definitely grown more insightful on that topic due to field trips and networking with local government leaders.”
Coleman, a rising senior at Potomac High School, who has been on the council for two years, said she thinks she learned to be an effective leader by being on the council. “I can see the growth in my personal leadership skills. I have become a stronger leader outside of the program like in my mentoring group at church, as well as on my track team at school. I’ve become more assertive and bold in my opinions and have tried to be the example for my teammates and fellow mentees.”
Curtis Porter, chairman of the Prince William County Human Rights Commission, said teaching students about government and civics develops good citizens. “It really helps the community by getting young people, through a positive youth development perspective, to give back and learn about their community and serve in their community.”
Student Leadership Council meetings will be from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 1, Dec. 6, Jan. 3, Feb. 26, and March 26, with the final program on April 18. All meetings will be held at the Edward L. Kelly Leadership Center at 14715 Bristow Road.
Applications filed in person must be turned in to the Prince William County Human Rights Commission offices at the Dr. A.J. Ferlazzo Building, 15941 Donald Curtis Drive in Woodbridge, by 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 14. Students who wish to apply online have until 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 14.