More than 60 high school students from 24 schools across the 37th Senate District gathered in Galesburg on December 6th to learn about state government and propose new legislation to State Sen. Chuck Weaver (R-Peoria).
“This is a great way to help gather future leaders and offer them a chance to make a difference today,” said Sen. Weaver. “This is a big part of engaging the next generation to have a voice in how their government operates.”
Senator Weaver’s Youth Advisory Council brought two students from each of the participating high schools to Knox College in Galesburg to learn from current leaders in government and business.
“I really wanted to come because I’m very interested in being a leader in my community and also my school, and I thought that I could come here and learn some great ideas,” said Mercer County High School student Lauren Morby. “I think it’s a great learning opportunity, you get to meet a lot of different kids that are like you, and also get to hear from a lot of people who are very successful in the field so it’s very inspiring.”
“The different speakers have allowed me to see the different career options and how you might have one choice, but you have to keep an open mind throughout college and throughout your career,” said Dunlap High School student Zoe Brand. “I’m excited to see what my team will think about certain policies and how our views differ.”
The students then worked in small groups to develop ideas for new legislation and then present their plans to the entire gathering. The ideas are voted on to determine what plan will advance.
“I wanted to come to Senator Weaver’s Youth Advisory Council because I wanted to understand more about how the Illinois political system works and how laws are made,” said Kewanee High School student Jackson Watson. “You meet a lot of different kids from schools around here that you would normally not meet, and they share the same political ideals, and even if they don’t share the same political ideals, it’s a very interesting experience.”
The students debated topics ranging from a term limits proposal to a bill to legalize the sale fireworks, with detailed debate about the ideas themselves along with the individual details of the proposals.
“It’s just really interesting to hear what other high school students have to say,” said Princeton High School student McKayla Bartkiewitcz. “Listening to all the different kinds of people speak and hearing what other people have to say, it really helps to build your own opinions.”
“Just the whole public speaking and collaborating ideas with other students who have the same ideas as me and being able to put our voices out there and change how our government is going,” said Knoxville High School student Hannah Jones.
In the end, the students voted to advance a new firearm regulation. In the spring, the students will meet at the State Capitol in Springfield where they will conduct a mock committee hearing on their legislation.
“It’s amazing to hear not only the ideas these students bring, but the knowledge they have and how they debate these ideas,” said Sen. Weaver. “I believe these students are well on their way to becoming future leaders in our communities.”