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Forward Township proposes adding student adviser from Seneca Valley

Forward Township manager Tom Hartwig, planning commission chairman Steve Longwell, and roadmaster Charles Behm deliberate during the township board of supervisors meeting on Tuesday night, May 14. William Pitts/Butler Eagle

FORWARD TWP — The board of supervisors approved a motion Tuesday, May 14, to send a proposal letter to Seneca Valley School District asking for a “student adviser” from the senior high school to sit in on township board meetings.

According to board of supervisors chairman Mark Wilson, Forward has been knocking around the idea for some time, inspired by other townships in Pennsylvania who have similar programs in place.

One such example is Whitpain Township in Montgomery County, which appoints high school students to serve as nonvoting members of its board of supervisors.

Wilson pitched it as an opportunity for students to get hands-on experience learning about the democratic process in their communities while also getting feedback from the younger generation.

“It would be an educational opportunity for the student, as well as an educational opportunity for us,” Wilson said. “We might hear what’s going on in the schools, in terms of issues and concerns that might spill over into the community.”

According to township manager Tom Hartwig, the student adviser would be responsible for providing a brief report summarizing issues faced by local schools.

“They would be able to observe township business being conducted and take back to the high school what they’ve learned,” Hartwig said. “Similarly, they would be asked to give a brief verbal report every month on something going on in the school district.”

Wilson said no municipality has such a program with Seneca Valley at the moment.

Township solicitor Rebecca Black suggested that the township target students in the history or civics classes, as those students would be more likely to jump into the role.

“The teachers in history or civics, those are usually the ones that give you a response,” Black said. “They’ll offer extra credit.”

Wilson added that the ideal candidate for the student adviser position would be a junior or senior from the senior high school — preferably, one who hails from Forward Township.

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