Smithfield Herald

Students documenting government at work

Britt photographs the gym at the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center.
Britt photographs the gym at the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center.

Students at Smithfield-Selma High School are teaching others about local government here.

Groups of students in the honors class in Johnston County history are creating videos about Town of Smithfield departments. The students are interviewing department heads and going on tours of the departments, spending about eight hours asking questions and learning. Each group will make a video to explain what the department does and how it works.

“It’s an opportunity for the departments to educate the public through the eyes of the youth,” said Tim Kerigan, the town’s human-resources director.

This is the same class that last year helped make signs around town with QR codes. At the sign, people can scan the QR with their smartphone to watch a video about the topic.

Joseph Smith, who teaches the Johnston history class, wanted to continue last year’s collaboration this year. Originally, he wanted students to intern for the town, but after talking with Kerigan and Town Manager Paul Sabiston, they hatched the video project.

Smith said the goal is “to give a fresh perspective, a fresh take, on what the town actually is.”

The project is a chance for students to do something creative and out of the classroom while learning about the town, Smith said. “Almost universally what I’m getting from them is, ‘I had no idea what this was ... I had no idea that this is how this happened,’ which is already objective number one met,” he said. “I think it’s fantastic.”

Callie Britt, a senior in the class, is making her video of the Parks and Recreation Department. “I think that it’s a wonderful opportunity for the students to be able to go out and do other things besides being limited to the classrooms,” she said.

Britt said she had not thought about town government before, so the project is teaching her something new. Though she has interned for the Smithfield-Selma Chamber of Commerce, “the (Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center) and Parks and Rec is a whole different world, and it’s pretty awesome,” she said.

Britt said she’s learning how the SRAC runs and “how they’re very personable to the people that come in; it’s just a very friendly environment.” Britt is also an assistant coach in SRAC programs, which is teaching her people skills, she said.

Senior Taylor Chamberlain is in Britt’s group. “I think it’s just a great opportunity and a way for some of us to give back to the community what they gave to us,” she said. “Especially for me, since I was one of those little kids who did Parks and Rec when I was little, so working with Parks and Rec is really close to me.”

Both were surprised by the many resources at SRAC, like the massage room and pottery room.

The students’ video projects are due Dec. 20. Town staff will polish them up and eventually post them on Smithfield’s website. Kerigan also hopes to air the videos on the public access channel, he said.