Legal Eagles

By Louisa Benatovich

ECS Student Reporter

Two Ellicottville students made their first trek to the County Legislative Building on Sept. 12. This building, home to our district attorney Lori Rieman, also houses the prestigious County Government program. Offered as a replacement for ECS’s Participation in Government course, County Government allows students a first-hand view of the Cattaraugus County legal system.

Ginna Hensel and Meganne Chapman, our Ellicottville attendees, get to spend every Wednesday at the County Building with students from across the area. For the entirety of the fall semester, this driven group of dynamic minds led by Mr. Butler, a retired teacher from Olean and Cuba-Rushford, will organize mock governments, stage debates, and attend county legislative meetings. Affectionately named “County Gov,” this program is perfect for future lawyers and paralegals, as well as individuals with a passion for government and political science.

After her first day, Ginna Hensel was ecstatic. “It was more than I ever thought it could be,” she told me. “I’ve been looking forward to County Gov since the 7th grade. Both my parents did it and it’s something I always knew I’d excel in. The information I learned and the bond built with my debate group on the first day were incomprehensible. At the end of the day, we had connected on a whole new personal level that none of us thought would be made for a month. It’s almost as if we were old friends catching up on life. That’s what happens when we get opportunities to meet with like-minded individuals under the instruction of a passionate teacher. I already know that when County Gov is over I will walk away with memories and experiences that I will hold onto for the rest of my life. I look forward to the opportunity to making memories, learning, and opening doors I didn’t think were possible. After such a life-changing and eye-opening first day, I can’t imagine what will come next.”

Meganne Chapman was equally excited. “I was nervous and excited about the first day,” she said, “not knowing who I was going to meet or what schools were going to be there. Once we did a few icebreaker activities, I was able to meet new friends and reconnect with ones I hadn’t seen in a long time. I instantly knew there was a connection between each and every one of us. We split into Liberals and Conservatives and started working on our first debate. I look forward to next Wednesday when we continue to prepare for the upcoming debate and every Wednesday thereafter.”

Though Meganne is planning to be an engineer and Ginna a lawyer, County Gov is eye-opening for anyone and everyone. When they turn 18, these women will be first at the polling booths. “Understanding how government works, even at the county level, makes the process of voting so much less scary,” says Ginna. “Only 43 percent of young people vote. After all I’ve learned, I’m fixing to change that statistic!”

Ginna and Meganne are just two in an entire generation of young people enthusiastic to learn about government, appreciative of our legal system, and who possess the smarts to change America.