On Tuesday, March 14th, a State Capitol committee room once again hosted lawmakers, lobbyists, and concerned citizens for a spirited legislative hearing, though in this case, they were all high school students from State Senator Jason Plummer’s (R-Edwardsville) district. The event was part of the Senator’s Youth Advisory Council (YAC) program.
“If we want to empower young people to have voice in their government, then we need to engage them and get them involved now, which is what this program is designed to do,” said Senator Plummer. “This is a chance for them to understand what the legislature does, and how to have an impact on the process.”
Plummer’s YAC program welcomes high school students from the 55th District to learn more about government through two meetings held each year. During the fall semester, students met in Vandalia to hear from lawmakers and local leaders, and to propose their own ideas for new legislation. This year, students put forward an idea of providing 5 days for high school seniors to visit colleges, universities, and trade schools.
“This has definitely been a positive experience for me, you learn so many different things about the legislative process, it’s inspiring and it’s a great motivation to get involved,” said Highland High School student Elena Schrof. “It’s great to be informed as a young person about the legislative process, going forward, young people are the next generation of change-makers in America, so I think it’s very important to be involved and informed.”
On March 14th, the students headed to the state Capitol in Springfield where they met with lawmakers, lobbyists, and legislative staffers, then held their own mock committee hearing on the legislation they had proposed in the fall.
“I thought it was a cool way to get the youth involved in politics, we don’t really hear a lot about that at the state level, so I thought it was really cool to see the behind-the-scenes,” St. Elmo High School student Laney Baldrige. “I learned a lot about the protocol, who runs the meetings, who does the votes, and who gets to talk when, so it was pretty cool.”
“I really enjoyed our committee debate, it was interesting to see all the opinions and sides that people took, and points that were raised that hadn’t even crossed my mind,” said Breese Central Community High School student Lauren Wolter. “So, this has been a truly inspirational day to see what it takes to get into this level of public policy and truly understand all the pieces and parts that go into creating the bills.”
During the committee hearing, students took on the roles of lawmakers, lobbyists, concerned citizens, and even the governor, as they debated their legislation. In the end, the student lawmakers voted to advance their legislation, though the student serving as governor chose to file an amendatory veto, reducing the total number of days to 2 per year.
“Overall, it’s been a good day and a good experience, getting to know what’s around you, getting to see different opportunities, whether it be career-wise or what you can do to make a difference,” said Christ Our Rock Lutheran High School student Taylor Sursa. “Young people are the future of our country so it’s very important that they get involved.”
Senator Plummer’s YAC program is open to high school students in the 55th Senate District. He encourages interested students to ask their teachers and/or principals about taking part.