SOUTH ORANGE, NJ- Students will assume the duties of the village president, including presiding over Board of Trustee meetings.

But only for a day. Village President Alex Torpey said was so inspired by a group of third-graders during a recent trip to South Mountain Elementary School that he wanted to give area students an opportunity to experience municipal government firsthand. Beginning in February, South Orange will unveil the “Village President for a Day” program.

“This is a great chance to spotlight some of our great young minds and help them learn more about local government,” Torpey said.  

Each month one student will be selected from a South Orange-Maplewood school to participate in various activities associated with municipal government. Torpey said those could include anything from leading the Pledge of Allegiance at a Board of Trustees meeting to cutting a ribbon at an event celebrating a new business -- or even helping to perform a marriage.

The village president honoree will be introduced at a Board of Trustees meeting. The first will be honored at the meeting scheduled for Monday, Feb. 24 at the South Orange Performing Arts Center.

The exact details of the selection process are still being discussed between school officials and the village. Because there are nine schools in the district and nine months in the school year, Torpey added that it makes sense to choose one student from each school per year.

Torpey said he hopes that this will create some excitement among not just the children, but other residents as well.  

“Too many people feel outside of the process and see government as inaccessible,” he said. “This is a really great opportunity to help bring more people into it -- the students, their families, friends and teachers.”

There is no word yet on which youngster will bang the gavel first and call the meeting to order on Feb. 24.

The reporter is a student participating in hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.