Every year, Brookfield High School seniors have to attend school board and township trustee meetings for a class assignment. For many, it will be the first – and only – time they attend a local government meeting.
T.J. Kirila, who just started his senior year, has already attended these meetings.
“I love going to them,” he said. Local politics is “so personal, and it really affects you,”
It is that keen interest in what is going on around him that led high school teacher Mary Arp to suggest that he apply for the Ohio Attorney General’s Teen Ambassador Program.
“T.J. has a great passion for current issues and politics,” Arp said. “He is very well informed about current issues – from the local to the global level. He demonstrates pride in his community with the many activities he volunteers for. I thought he would be a great fit for this program, because he loves to debate and discuss current issues and knows what he’s talking about.”
T.J. was accepted into the Teen Ambassador Program, which aims to prepare Ohio’s future leaders by giving them an inside look at government and advise current officials of the views of the state’s young people.
promoT.J. attended a Teen Ambassador summit Aug. 5 in Columbus.
“We got to meet the attorney general (Dave Yost), and we talked about ways to solve certain issues, especially the opioid crisis,” T.J. said.
There were about 200 other kids there, some of whom he remains in contact with.
“It was cool to meet them all and hear about their part of the state,” T.J. said.
Serving a one-year term, T.J. will be invited to a second summit in April, is informed of conferences that he can attend that address issues such as the opioid crisis, sexual assault response and law enforcement, and is asked to write an opinion on a monthly topic. The August topic was vaccinations.
“I hope to learn more about the government and the way it functions and how to make real change and real results in people,” T.J. said. “I care a lot about my community and the state I live in.”
T.J. realizes his interest in politics and current affairs is unusual for his age.
“I wish more young people would be involved in politics and care about (it),” he said. “I feel like younger people don’t care as much, but I’m hoping once they’re able to vote they’ll care more.”
T.J. is only 17, but he will be 18 and eligible to vote in the November election.
Arp said she hopes T.J. will choose a career in government or public service. T.J. said he has not decided what he wants to do after high school, adding that studying political science is “in the running.”
T.J.’s varied interests are reflected in his school activities. He’s president of Student Council, a member of the SADD and Interact clubs, runs track, is captain of Prep Bowl and serves as treasurer of National Honor Society.
“I have to be busy,” he said. “I feel like the more involved you are, the more people you meet and the more friends you make.”