Erin Hambidge, Staff Writer
// Acalanes High School Leadership provided students looking to enter into public service with the opportunity to learn more about what the profession entails and how they can make an impact on the world starting at a local level.
Lafayette Mayor Susan Candell hosted a question and answer session on Thursday, Feb. 18 at lunch to let students learn more about current events in the community, encouraging them to share their own ideas and perspectives on local issues.
The meeting was part of a week-long program planned by the Acalanes Student Life Board, who hoped to attract new groups of students through events with a wide spectrum of topics and interests.
“When we were brainstorming, my board wanted to think of a new and creative event… Our goal was to get students informed about what it’s like to be in public service and steps we can take as a community to get involved,” sophomore Kaitlyn Keely said.
The Board reached out to Mayor Candell in the hopes that she would provide an interesting perspective on local politics.
“We really wanted to bring awareness to the public service field. Education is always important, but especially now in such a turbulent time for so many areas of service,” junior Ava Spiegler said.
Before becoming the mayor, Candell had an extensive career in nuclear physics and radiology. The work she was doing on her own to help the community inspired her to pursue a career in public service.
“I think it was actually really nice to hear that it was not her intention to be mayor but she was doing activist work in her own life and someone said, ‘your voice needs to be heard,’ and so here she is on a really local level,” Leadership teacher Katherine Walton said.
The dialogue informed students about how they can get involved in community matters, starting on a small scale.
“I think, and would like to hope, that this was a positive experience for students, but I attribute that all to the hard work of my board and especially to Mayor Candell. She not only told us transparently about prominent issues in our town but specific ways, such as joining webinars and emailing people on the council, to get involved,” Spiegler said.
Candell’s willingness to open up to students, as well as the informal structure of the meeting, inspired many students to get involved in the discussion and ask questions.
“[Candell] is very sociable and I definitely feel that students learned a lot from her speaking. It was really nice to see so many students asking questions because they were engaged in the conversation. I also had students private messaging me saying how much they enjoyed the event,” junior Jane Bishop said.
The discussion covered a wide range of topics, but many times throughout the meeting, Candell stressed the importance of youth involvement in the community.
“I think the thing that resonated with me the most actually is how many times she referenced young people and that young people’s voices matter, and also tried to provide opportunities for the people on the call to get involved. And I just, I loved hearing that and I really appreciate her sharing all those different ways,” Walton said.
The Mayor stated that her passion for youth participation stems from her belief that younger generations have the power to affect change in their communities.
“You guys really are going to be the people who are going to save the world because, to be honest, we adults have been doing a pretty poor job. There’s a lot of work to be done and I think most of the pushing is being done from below from the young people to the older people. And I like that I think that’s a good direction to take,” Candell said to Blueprint.
The high attendance rate at the meeting and student involvement in the conversation left a lasting impression on Candell.
“You know, just taking the time out of a lunch to speak to the mayor speaks volumes about how aware and willing to engage the kids at Acalanes are, which is tremendous,” Candell said.
The success of the meeting inspired both Candell and Leadership to pursue further collaboration in local matters.
“I think if we could expand on that and make sure that one, our city council is also aware of what’s happening in our school but to get our students’ voices amplified. I think there’s a lot of power in that to start to continue to improve where we all live,” Walton said.