Writer: Donna Harris
Posted January 5, 2021
The Daily Tribune News
Enrolling in an online program for future civic leaders caused Chloe Satterfield to realize how fortunate and blessed she is to live in Bartow County.
The Cartersville High senior participated in the Georgia Center for Civic Engagement’s first Emerging County Leaders Program, a county commissioner simulation program where students from across the state research and analyze their county, evaluate key statewide issues and opportunities and propose solutions while collaborating with other representatives across the state.
During the five-week virtual program, which began the first week of November and ended Dec. 9, the future leaders completed weeklong modules that included research on issues pertinent to their county, a training webinar led by David Key of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government and discussions on the access and availability of rural broadband with representatives from Rural Georgia Initiatives and on juvenile justice with Commissioner Tyrone Oliver of the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice.
The town hall discussions gave the participants wider perspectives and resources to tap into for future endeavors.
"At the heart of our mission, we desire to create informed and active citizens," GCCE President and CEO Dr. Randell E. Trammell said in a news release. "Our plan for the program was to utilize the push for virtual learning to create an exciting opportunity for students. With the help of engaged leaders from around the state, we were able to give students a glimpse into the functions of local government not only in their county but across the state. This can be a real game-changer for local communities as students graduate with the knowledge that they can play an important role in local government."
Satterfield, 17, applied for the intensive program as a representative of Bartow County to replace some of the activities and events she isn't getting to do at school this year.
"Since many of the in-person events that my school usually takes us to were canceled due to COVID-19, I wanted a way to stay involved and still feel like I'm learning and making a difference," she said. "I also love my community, and I felt this was an excellent opportunity to hone in on Cartersville and Bartow County rather than focusing on Georgia as a whole, which we typically do with programs similar to this. I honestly believe that my community is one of the most incredible places in the state, and I was hopeful that this program would begin equipping me to serve it in the future."
She learned about the program through her involvement with GCCE during high school and from serving as one of the organization's two 76th youth governors.
"When COVID cases began to spike in the U.S., the organization discussed multiple virtual programs to take the place of our lack of in-person programming," she said. "When Emerging County Leaders was brought up, it immediately piqued my interest because it focused on local issues."
She added she appreciates GCCE "working so hard to keep students across the state engaged amid COVID-19."
Satterfield said all materials for the virtual program were handled via Google Classroom, "which I think was brilliant."
"Everything was incredibly organized and easy to understand," she said. "Each module was a week long, and I enjoyed doing assignments and research at my own pace. We also had occasional Zoom meetings that allowed us to communicate more directly and build relationships with other participants."
During the program, the future leaders "did much research on issues specific to our communities," Satterfield said.
"That included looking at various statistics, reading articles and even speaking to residents," she said. "I was also able to interview Bartow County's county commissioner, Steve Taylor, and listen in on a city council meeting. These things allowed me to witness how local government works and better understand its role. We were also able to participate in Zoom meetings with state leaders such as Tyrone Oliver, the commissioner of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council."
The daughter of Ryan and Kelly Satterfield of Cartersville said she learned a great deal about the community that she calls home.
"Before participating in this program, I had very little idea what county commissioners did for the community," she said. "After interviewing Commissioner Taylor, I learned that the county government and its leaders tackle many tasks. They spearhead economic development, help our school systems obtain the resources they need and keep tabs on our legislatures to ensure that the community gets what it needs from the Capitol. I want to thank Commissioner Taylor and his office for taking the time out of his busy schedule to do an interview. It was incredibly rewarding and educational."
The program also helped her "realize just how special Cartersville and Bartow County are," she said.
"After discussing local issues with students from other parts of the state, I realized that we are very well off here," she said. "Even though Bartow County has its issues, we have unique leadership committed to solving those problems and compassionate residents who are willing to help."
The inaugural class finished the program by submitting capstone projects via Google Classroom to GCCE Dec. 9.
For her project, Satterfield said she created a video that recapped what she'd learned.
"I chose to make a video because I felt I could better explain what I learned and why I appreciate my community," she said. "I discussed the county commissioner's role, something practical I had gained to use in everyday life, how my perception of local government had changed and how I believed the program helped me work towards my long-term goals."
She also said she "elaborated on how the discussion with other students taught me to become more 'others-focused.'"
"Their communities face issues that most of our residents rarely give a second thought," she said. "Many struggle with widespread gang violence, lack of internet access, high incarceration rates and increasing drug abuse. I hope to always remember to look at what others may be facing or what the 'bigger picture' is rather than staying centered solely on what I am personally exposed to."
After the projects were evaluated, several awards were presented, and Satterfield won the Outstanding Representative Award.
"I was surprised," she said, noting she received a certificate over Google Classroom. "There were so many enthusiastic and intelligent students that participated. I am definitely honored, however. I think that knowing I represented my community brightly and effectively feels better than the award itself."
Brooke Hamil, coordinator of marketing and programs for GCCE, said the Outstanding Representative Award was given to a student who "goes above and beyond in each module and in their capstone."
"This student stands out by being prepared, engaged and supports the group through discussions and webinars," she said. "Chloe was chosen for the award because she exemplified all of the qualities the judges were looking for and more. Chloe was not only prepared, engaged and supportive, but she was a great representative of Bartow County and our program overall during our group discussions and webinars with statewide officials. Chloe’s dedication and work ethic were apparent in her final capstone as well, making her a strong candidate and ultimately the winner of this award."
Some of the lessons Satterfield learned through the program will come in handy after she graduates from CHS, as she plans to earn a law degree and pursue a career in law or policy advocacy.
"Specializations I have considered include aviation law, constitutional law or intellectual property law," she said. "I also hope to work with education and service-based nonprofits to help young adults learn more about government and how it affects them. I have also considered becoming a lobbyist for causes such as education, women's issues and religious liberty."