On Wednesday, Lenexa leaders got a wave of feedback on city function from a group of some of the city’s youngest citizens.
Over the past several weeks, third grade teacher Meghan Minardi’s students have worked on a civics project to learn about Lenexa’s history, how the local government works and the kinds of problems it faces.
After Minardi spread the word about her students’ civics project, city leaders from nearly every department gave the third graders tours to give the students a “better idea of what’s going on in Lenexa.” Those same students then came up with ideas for solutions as well as components of what makes a good citizen.
The weeks-long project — the fourth of its kind at Rosehill — culminated in presentations Wednesday morning to city leaders with their ideas for how to make their community a better place to live. Lenexa leaders and department heads stayed afterward to mingle with students and talk face to face about the issues.
“I’ve worked in other cities, and this is the one city I’ve taught in that they really do a huge job of making sure that the kids know that their voices matter and that they are a part of this community,” Minardi said at the open house after the presentations, when Lenexa city leaders mingled with the third graders. “I’m looking out and there’s the deputy police chief, our ward councilmember, our mayor and our police chief, all on the same level with all the kids wanting to hear what they have to say.
“I think that’s really what’s going to inspire and encourage good citizens, and that’s kind of what this whole civics project was about.”
Suggestions from students
The third graders had tons of takeaways from their weeks-long research project. Many of them praised the city on things they enjoy, like the nature, parks, trees, lakes and ponds.
Some of the problems students discussed included too-short pool hours and a lack of public transportation, amenities and dog parks. Others chimed in on uneven sidewalks, poor timing of stoplights, dimly lit sections of streets and littering.
Some students raised issues based on their personal experiences. For example, Miyah McCant said she can’t stand littering because her dog once choked on some trash on the sidewalk and her family had to take him to the veterinarian. So McCant and other students suggested installing more trash cans. Several students suggested installing more streetlights or having police increase their presence in dimly lit areas.
Another student, Itzel Rocha, agrees that littering is a problem, but she also thinks helping homeless people should be a top priority as well.
“We can make our world a better place for people that do not litter, help homeless people that are really homeless, make sure that they are OK because some are very, very sick,” Rocha said, adding that she learned from Mayor Michael Boehm that Johnson County government provides services for homeless people.
Still, Rocha thinks Lenexa citizens can help in their own ways.
“I think they can help the homeless. If they’re sick, try to make sure that they have medicine,” Rocha said, adding that homeless people need bare necessities, and it’s important “because they are also part of this community and they are cared for.”
One team of students also suggested installing report boxes for citizens to file reports electronically or on paper.
“Because then if something happened or someone got hurt — ‘cause someone was doing something that was really bad — they could put that report in there,” said Olakunbi Abitogun.