State Sen. Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville) brought together dozens of high school students from across the 54th Senate District to participate in his annual Youth Advisory Council on April 27, a unique opportunity for area students to learn about leadership, state government and public policy.
“With the pandemic, the event looked a bit different this year, but unsurprisingly it didn’t stop our students from getting involved and making the most of this event,” said Sen. Plummer. “I am so pleased that we were able to find a way to provide this opportunity to engage our students, encouraging their interest in government.”
“My biggest takeaway from the Youth Advisory Council was how important it is to be involved,” said Ava Daugherty, a student from Father McGivney Catholic High School. “There's a lot of things you don't hear on popular media platforms, so it is crucial to educate ourselves and remain a part of the conversation.”
Students from Beecher City High, Breese Central High, Centralia High, Christ Our Rock Lutheran High, Collinsville High, Edwardsville High, Father McGivney Catholic School, Highland High, O’Fallon Township High, Patoka High, Sandoval High, Triad High, Vandalia High and Wesclin High participated. Students were chosen based on recommendations made by area administrators and local educators.
“Young students frequently fail to recognize their own power to shape the public conversation and affect the issues they care about,” said Ben Kelley, a student from Triad High School. “For that reason, we must reach out to youth and encourage them to realize their agency.”
With the Senate currently holding hearings on the topic of redistricting, Sen. Plummer chose to focus on the legislative remap process for this year’s Council meeting. To help lead the discussion on the importance of redistricting and the ongoing process, Sen. Plummer invited Brian Burian, the Senior Advisor for the Senate Republican Caucus on the redistricting process, to speak to students. Sen. Plummer also spoke about his perspective on the redistricting process and his role in ongoing Senate Redistricting committees.
“The redistricting process will determine political lines and voter representation for the next decade,” said Sen. Plummer. “I believe we have a duty to educate our youth on just how important the process is in giving voters a voice. This is a topic that impacts their communities, families, schools, job prospects and opportunities when they graduate.”
“Today’s Council was super informative and helped me learn more about the process of redistricting and gerrymandering,” said Leo Kruger, a student from Vandalia High School. “It is extremely important for students to get involved because it’s our lives that are going to be impacted in the next few years by changes occurring now. We need to be able to understand what is happening with our government and why.”
In past years, students would have visited the Capitol to witness legislative session in person and participate in a mock Senate committee hearing. For this virtual meeting, students were asked to participate in a roundtable debate regarding redistricting.
To help encourage discussion, students were divided into two groups: half in favor of an Independent Commission for drawing map lines, and half in favor of the current remap system. At the close, students were asked to cast votes in favor of how they believed remapping should be done. After a thorough debate, students voted overwhelmingly for politicians to be removed from the process and replaced by an independent commission.