More than three dozen high school students have developed a new understanding of both state government and what it takes to be a an effective leader, thanks to State Senator Chuck Weaver’s (R-Peoria) Youth Advisory program.
“These students are the best of the best from my ten-county district, future representatives, future senators, future judges, and future business leaders,” said Sen. Weaver. “It’s an opportunity for them to meet and learn from great leaders in our communities, but also meet other kids who are going to be leaders in our state down the road, and also really get a good chance to understand how our legislative process works.”
The fall meeting of Senator Weaver’s Youth Advisory Council brought together 42 high schools students from across the 37th District to Blackhawk College’s East campus near Kewanee. Students heard from business and political leaders and learned more about the legislative process of state government.
During the afternoon, the students proposed and debated multiple pieces of legislation with the hope that their idea could someday become law.
“We’re networking with some of the best students and the best leaders in our districts which is a lot of fun as well,” said Bruna Tavares, a junior from Dunlap High School. “Coming here, having our state legislators actually ask us about the process, and have us get involved and learn more about it, that’s really exciting so we can actually feel like we are a part of something.”
The students proposed and debated a number of proposals, from bills that would reform standardized testing to changing the drinking age. In the end, they voted to advance an idea to create a nonpartisan commission to draw legislative districts.
Their next meeting will take place during the spring legislative session at the Capitol complex in Springfield. There, the students will take part in a mock committee hearing, where they will play the parts of lawmakers, lobbyists, concerned citizens, and even the Governor as they discuss their legislation.
“The Youth Advisory Council is without a doubt one of the best experiences I’ve had with my high school career,” said Galesburg High School student Isiah Harlan, who is taking part for a second year. “You see how impactful government is and how the ordinary person has the capability to pass laws through talking with their legislator.”
Senator Weaver said that he hopes the program will help prepare the students to effectively become the state’s next generation of leaders.
“It’s a chance to get them to start thinking about how to put together the pieces to really impact the world and put our society ahead,” said Sen. Weaver. “As our future leaders, the message I hope they take home with them is that leadership isn’t where you’re going, it’s where you’re taking the people that are following you."