JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – In Onslow County, students got a full day of learning on Friday about how the government system works as part of the county’s Close Up Program.

The program hasn’t been held since 2018 before Hurricane Florence and COVID-19.

The commissioner chairs were filled with some unfamiliar faces with a look at the future of Onslow County. Around 150 high schoolers from the area had the opportunity to step into the shoes of leaders of the community.

First, an educational panel with the Superintendent of Onslow County Schools, Dr. Barry Collins, and the Superintendent of Camp Lejeune Schools, Ryan Smith. Then they conducted a mock commissioner meeting in the chamber, deciding between a youth mental health facility or recreational space, which included some vocal public speakers.

“Once I heard the mock citizens say what they needed to say, it swayed me a little bit, but in the end, I stuck with my decision,” said Swansboro High School senior Lillian Glegola, who was acting as a commissioner. “It was definitely eye-opening to see what it’s like to actually be impacted by citizens like that.”

That was followed by some questions they had for current County Commissioner Chair Tim Foster and County Manager Sharon Griffin.

“Our kids are very in tune to what has taken place over the last several years,” said Foster. “Their interest in mental health was something that really stood out to me that that they’re engaged, they understand what’s going on.”

Next, District Attorney Ernie Lee made a presentation and spoke with students about law.

“Our district attorney is always a highlight for the kids. He is so energetic and is so passionate about his job. And it always gets a lot of questions, a lot of interaction from the kids,” said Chief Communications Officer of Onslow County Schools, Brent Anderson.

Then students were able to eat lunch and chat with some of our Board of Education members. After that was a hearing from Onslow County’s State Representative Phil Shepard.

“It’s always good to hear people’s complaints and plus hear things they would like to have because that’s where we get our legislation from,” said Shepard.

They finished their day learning about the Albert J. Ellis Airport, Onslow County Sheriff’s Office and emergency services day-to-day duties.

This was the 30th anniversary of the program. Many said they were looking forward to many more years.