Article published on December 3, 2012 by FloridaToday.com Fourth-grader Debra Fortes spoke into the microphone Thursday, addressing the new MicroSociety “citizens” at Imagine Schools at West Melbourne. “It’s our voice and our choice,” the 10-year-old said before taking the presidential oath of office. “We are Imagine! Thank you.” The school started the MicroSociety program last year, creating a school community where students elect representatives, craft a constitution and form businesses. They learn about political systems — they chose a democracy and named it iCity after popular Apple electronics — and finances. As part of the program, students take out loans, pay bills and shop with “Dragon Dough,” named after the school’s mascot. “It empowers students to take ownership of their school,” Imagine Principal Shannon Gerbi said. Imagine started the program last school year as a way to attract new families and fill an academic niche in the area. As a charter school, the publicly funded but privately run school competes with district schools for students. “It’s a really good program,” said parent Melissa Koretsky of Palm Bay. “It teaches the kids a lot of core values that they’ll need once they get outside of school. Life lessons.” Her son, Richie, a fifth-grader, plans on opening a petting zoo. It’s the perfect opportunity to bring Brittany, his pet guinea pig, to school. “I’ll get to play with animals and teach kids about them,” he said. During the iCity Constitutional Convention on Thursday, class delegates were called to the stage to sign their new constitution. Third-grader Haley Tucker watched as her twin sister, Hannah, signed the document. Both ran successful campaigns and were elected delegates. “I was excited,” said Hannah, 8. “It was the first time I ever signed something that important.” Their father, Dave Tucker, smiled. As they left school for the day, he talked with them about their new responsibilities as elected representatives. “You guys have to be super good examples now,” he said. Nodding, Hannah grabbed his hand as she skipped down the sidewalk.