A Waverly-Shell Rock senior and a former cub reporter for Waverly Newspapers will be the guest councilperson at the Waverly City Council meetings in December.

Gretchen “G” Ellerbroek, 17, will attend the two council meetings of the month at the invitation of At-Large Councilwoman Ann Rathe.

The newly re-elected councilwoman, who is a psychiatrist at Waverly Health Center, is a role model for G, who wants to pursue psychiatry as a career.

In a conversation about the profession, it turned out that both G and Rathe had an interest in civic engagement, hence the councilwoman’s invite.

G’s civic mindedness has taken on different dimensions in the last couple of years, but it has always been centered on the belief that it has to be “promoting people’s ability to flourish.”

With a goal as noble as this, it is understandable why, in the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, for instance, G took on a set of assignments as a cub correspondent for Waverly Newspapers, documenting life on the farm during the intense first months of the coronavirus shutdown.

Since then, G has become the Education Committee chair for the Iowa Youth Congress, an advocacy group through the Iowa Department of Human Services modeled after the Iowa House of Representatives, which provides learning opportunities for leadership and civic engagement as well as representation issues affecting the youth.

G is also active in the Citizens Climate lobby, where members advocate for climate-friendly legislation.

G’s mom, Angie, is a nurse, who was on the front lines of the pandemic, and dad Shawn teaches biochemistry at Wartburg College.

Siblings Mason and Ari, are in college and high school, respectively.

Meanwhile, after school, G is working at Bartels as a nursing assistant, as part of a journey to learn how the healthcare system functions and prepare for a future in medicine.

However, G is not the first high school student to be a guest council person. City Clerk Carla Guyer recalled Joel Kangas, the son of Ward 5 Councilman Tim Kangas, as well as other high school students and some college students taking advantage of the opportunity afforded to young people through the city’s program.

G’s interest was spurred by watching council meeting and school board meetings in the past.

“I am going to try to best represent the interests of the younger generation to give more insight into our beliefs and values,” G said. “I want to learn more about the process. I want to know if running for elected position might be something I might be interested in when I am older.”

Rathe, the councilwoman, said she is looking forward to G’s presence on the council.

“Adults can get so cynical about the world, especially government,” Rathe said, “so it was really refreshing to talk to G and see her optimism and enthusiasm.”

After graduation in May, G is headed to college to study biochemistry and follow a pre-med curriculum.

G’s parents are supportive of the decision to explore local government.

“I told them I’d do it,” G said. “They pretty much let me do what I want.”

At the next council meeting, which will be Dec. 6, G plans to greet the council like this:

“Hi, I am G. I am a high school student, and I am looking forward to working with you this month. I hope to be able to learn a lot.”