Gahanna Lincoln High School seniors got a hands-on civics lesson last week, participating in the 37th annual student government day April 23.

Gahanna Lincoln High School seniors got a hands-on civics lesson last week, participating in the 37th annual student government day April 23.

Students spent the day interacting with Gahanna city administrators, city council members, township trustees and school officials.

The goal of student government day is to allow students to investigate related careers and to learn how government officials carry out their duties.

Following their morning shadowing event, participants gathered at the Jefferson Country Club for a luncheon. Yvette McGee Brown, a former Franklin County common-pleas judge, was the guest speaker.

Brown told students they should decide who they want to be and meet the challenge. She always wanted to be a trial lawyer, she said, but decided she needed a change from the long days after she started a family, so she ran for judge.

"When I ran for judge, people looked at me like I was crazy," she said. "I was all of 32 years old."

Brown said she worked harder during her campaign than she had worked in her life, meeting thousands of people by attending such events as the Obetz Zucchini Festival and the Reynoldsburg Tomato Festival.

She won her first race by 11,000 votes.

"Always believe in you," she said.

Brown said that although she might not be smarter than other people, she has a strong work ethic. People wouldn't catch her unprepared. Those who work for her, Brown said, have to be prepared to "bring it."

She also cautioned students about social-networking Web sites like YouTube and MySpace. Brown said information 18-year-olds share online would still be around in 30 years.

"The first time you put it out there, you can never pull it back," she said.

In public life, Brown said, having good ethics is not negotiable. She said students should live their lives as if everything they do might appear on the cover of a major newspaper.

People with goals must be prepared to separate themselves from their friends if those friends are not prepared to make the same kind of journey, she said.

"Have the courage to separate yourselves from them," she said. "A lot of people will want to keep you at the bottom with them. Don't turn over your potential."

Brown said it took her 12 years to repay her student loans, but the return on investment was huge. She said students shouldn't be afraid to leave life as they know it in Gahanna.

"Dream big; don't let anyone stand in your way," she said.

As part of his government day experience, John Beatty shadowed Mifflin Township administrator Nancy White. He said it gave him an opportunity to see day-to-day operations of the township.

"We stopped at every fire station in the city," he said.

He also fulfilled a lifelong dream of sliding down a fire pole, he said.

Beatty said he plans to attend Otterbein College or Ohio Dominican University so he can play baseball.

Jasmine Cunningham shadowed Gahanna police Chief Dennis Murphy, giving her the opportunity to learn about the different parts of city government.

The most enjoyable part was in riding in the police car, she said.

Cunningham will attend Ohio State University, where she plans to major in business and criminology.

Raleigh Harriott shadowed Gahanna City Council member Nancy McGregor.

"Gahanna is a lot bigger than I thought," she said, adding that she enjoyed touring the city.

White plans to earn a college degree and then enter the Peace Corps.

Stephanie Collart shadowed Rae White, Gahanna school coordinator of curriculum and professional development.

"I had no idea what a coordinator of curriculum does," she said. "She is pretty busy. She dabbles in everything."

Collart plans to attend Otterbein and major in psychology.

tstubbs@thisweeknews.com