Dozens of high school students from across the 53rd Senate District came to the Illinois State Capitol for a unique, hands-on experience in state government on Wednesday, April 13. This experience is part of an annual program, the Youth Advisory Council, put together by State Senator Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington). The Youth Advisory Council aims to get local students engaged in state government.
“This is an opportunity for students to learn more about how their government works by taking part in the process themselves,” said Senator Barickman. “The hope is to connect with them at an age when many may not be engaged in the very government that affects them every day.”
Senator Barickman’s Youth Advisory Council simulated a Higher Education Committee hearing, which focused on legislation that was proposed by the students at the group’s fall meeting in Bloomington.
The students served as lawmakers, lobbyists, journalists and concerned citizens for the mock hearing. Their mock legislative proposal would have given college applicants the ability to use portfolios in place of standardized tests in the college admission process. After intense lobbying, debate and negotiations, the mock committee eventually voted “no” on the proposal.
“I think the experience offered the students a chance to learn not only about how the process works, but how hard it is to actually pass legislation,” said Senator Barickman.
The students started their day at the Capitol with a short tour that included a visit to the Senate floor and the chance to meet Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner. Then the students headed to a Senate committee room where they heard from lawmakers from both parties, a lobbyist, and statehouse journalists before their mock hearing began.
“My favorite part was the mock hearing, I think that brought a good glimpse of the backroom dealing sort of thing, and also just the way things are presented and the way we discuss it and try to work to a resolution,” said Cissna Park High School student Conner Kaeb. “I tried to push an amendment, it failed, but it was a fun time.”
“Usually at my school there’s not a lot of people who like to talk about politics, so I love coming to places like this and hear other people that have the same interests as me talk, even if it’s a different view or political party” said Normal Community High School student Emily Hamm. “I definitely have an interest in politics, and I want to major or minor in political science. This has really helped me explore my options and really showed me that this is what I want to do.”