What I learned as a Junior Commissioner

Sarah Hudak, senior at Mt. Lebanon High School

As many high schoolers at Mt. Lebanon tend to be, I have always had a busy schedule filled with academics, club and school sports, extracurriculars and work. I played on the Mt. Lebanon girls lacrosse team from freshman to senior year and club lacrosse since sixth grade for PPLC. At school, I’m a third-year writing coach where I conference essays and offer constructive criticism and advice to my peers. English has always been my favorite subject in school and as a writing coach, I can help others improve their writing skills while also learning about different styles and techniques. In my free time, I enjoy running and spending time with my family and friends. I’ve always believed in the importance of civic engagement and have had a curiosity about what key factors go into building a strong sense of community and pride among members and municipal leaders. For a long time, I’ve wanted to get involved, but being so young I didn’t think there were many options.

This past spring, I unfortunately tore my ACL while playing lacrosse. Soon after, I had ACL reconstruction and began my 9-month-long recovery process. Since I was used to a busy schedule and couldn’t play sports for a while, I looked for other activities that could fulfill me as I rehabbed my knee–activities geared toward my interests that I previously didn’t have enough time to pursue.

Playing lacrosse for Mt. Lebanon High School

I became an AmeriCorps member for the after-school program at the Boys and Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania. There I act as an educator, a coach, and a role model for the kids. I do my best to support them academically with homework help and additional math and literacy programs. This gives the youth in these underserved communities the opportunities and resources to achieve success and gain confidence in their abilities. I am so grateful for this experience.

As well as serving as an AmeriCorps member, I stumbled upon the opportunity to be a Mt. Lebanon Junior Commissioner. Quickly after reading the position description, I realized it fit perfectly with my interest in municipality endeavors.

Presenting student updates at a commission meeting, November 2023

During my term as junior commissioner, I sat in on discussion sessions, where I learned many things by listening to the commissioners. I learned the importance of problem-solving and looking at situations from all angles. Listening to the commission meetings that were open to public comments showed me the true importance of civic engagement. These meetings provided me with firsthand experience in the decision-making processes and dynamics of municipal governance. I also had the honor of speaking in front of the commission to update them on matters at the high school. Initially, public speaking presented a challenge, but I improved my communication and gained confidence with each meeting. The commissioners’ differing leadership and communication styles showed me how to best navigate public discussions and consider diverse viewpoints.

My experience as a junior commissioner has solidified my interest in public service and government. It demonstrated the complexity of municipal endeavors, the importance of effective leadership, and the need for active citizen participation. This exposure has strengthened my desire to make public service a part of my future, where I can continue my community and civic engagement. I am so grateful the commissioners allowed me to learn from each of them and to grow from this opportunity.

Sarah and family during the holidays

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