LIHUE — Kauai Council Chair Mel Rapozo said most of the students were unaware they could testify at the Council meetings Thursday when nearly two dozen students at the Kapaa High School American Problems class assumed various roles during the mock council meeting at the historic County Building.
“Get engaged, and stay engaged,” Rapozo told the students following a rigorous two-hour session where the students wrangled with bills and motions relating to relevant student concerns like bullying and mandatory school uniforms. “One student said he was normally a shy person. But he testified on the school uniform issue. Get involved, and stay involved.”
The students’ appearance at the council chambers was prompted following the class’ research work and discussions relating to the general election coming up Nov. 6.
“They emailed us questions that we had to answer,” Rapozo said. “We (the mayoral and council candidates) made a personal visit to the school’s class where they had more questions to ask. I decided I would invite them to the council chambers where they could actually assume roles as council people and listen and experience the process of getting bills enacted. This isn’t the first time we’ve done this, but the kids are so involved with the election, they would appreciate the invitation.”
Michelle Gibson, class teacher, said the students really got into the research for the elections, and while many are going to turn 18 years old following the midterm elections, they are eager to vote.
“This session is really good,” said Jordy Fleming, an 11th-grade student on accelerated learning. “I never really understood how things like this work. I now know that I can bring up issues we’re concerned about, and people will listen.”
Rapozo encouraged the student engagement, noting that he learned things while listening to the students debate the school uniform issue.
“Everyone counts,” Rapozo said. “Even that shy person who didn’t feel like voicing an opinion. Even I learned something while listening, and I had to go take the stand, too.”
Wailana Makepa, a senior from Anahola, said her most pressing issue this election is affordable housing, and the Hawaiian Homes.
“We don’t have a representative to the Hawaiian Homes from Kauai,” Makepa said. “Gov. David Ige was supposed to appoint one, but when I checked the website, Kauai is still vacant. Why does it take so long before someone is appointed to represent Kauai? I’d really like to talk with Gov. Ige and find out why this is taking so long.”
Rapozo, who got help from Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura in the discussions and bill movements, said he was pleased to see the enthusiasm the young people had in the governmental process.
“One young man said he was definitely going to vote,” Rapozo said. “He said his parents won’t vote, but he will when he makes age.”
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or email@example.com.