On Wednesday, December 6th, on the campus of Kaskaskia College, Senator Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville) hosted high school students from his district. The event was part of the Senator’s Youth Advisory Council (YAC) program.
“We need to open the doors for our youth to understand how government works, what the process looks like and figure out how to get more people involved. We are supposed to be a citizen-legislature and we need to make sure we have engaged, informed citizens to insure a healthy democracy,” said Senator Plummer. “This is an opportunity for them to take a hands-on role in the process of developing and passing legislation.”
Plummer’s YAC program welcomes high school students from the 55th District to learn more about government through two biannual meetings, once during the fall semester in the district, and then in the spring at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. This year there were nearly 20 high schools and over 60 students participating.
“The biggest takeaway from today was getting ahold of my elected officials was a lot easier than I thought,” said Nashville High School student Joel Bergmann. “My favorite part of today was getting to make a bill, proposing it to the group and discussing our ideas.”
On December 6th, the students headed to Kaskaskia College in Vandalia. Senator Plummer welcomed in 3 speakers, State Senator Steve McClure (54th district), Misty Borrowman (President & CEO Bank of Hillsboro), and Jeff Isbell (Meridian Health).
“My favorite speaker today was Misty. I really appreciated how she talked about the impact local community banks have on the local community,” said Breese Central High School student Cole Buschmann. “Financial literacy in schools is something I am really passionate about.”
“My favorite speaker of the day was Senator McClure, because he talked about issues I hadn’t thought about, and he really interested me in them,” said St. Elmo’s High School student Kelly Moss. “My favorite part of today was learning more about the legislative system, about things I didn’t even think about.”
Students worked in small groups to come up with ideas for new legislation. The groups then presented their ideas for a vote to determine one bill that would advance. There was a fierce battle over two of the proposals, with the students in attendance deadlocked in a tie vote. Eventually, teachers were polled as tiebreakers, helping to advance a proposal to provide opportunities for high school students to tutor elementary students in their districts.
“I wanted to do the Youth Advisory Council because I felt that it was important to get my voice out there and get some experience because I want to do policymaking when I grow up or lawmaking or something similar,” said Highland High School student Naami Saathoff. “I felt it was important to get my voice heard.”
During the Spring semester, students will meet at the State Capitol in Springfield to meet with other lawmakers and individuals that are involved in the lawmaking process, before holding a mock committee hearing on the bill they advanced during the fall.
Senator Plummer’s YAC program is an annual event open to high school students in the 55th Senate District. He encourages interested students to ask their teachers and/or principals about taking part. Students, parents, teachers, and administrators are always welcome to contact Senator Plummer’s offices in Vandalia and Springfield for more information.