An Illinois State Capitol committee room was recently filled with sounds of debate over a proposed bill, though the discussion was between high school students, not legislators. It was all part of State Senator Steve McClure’s (R-Springfield) Youth Advisory Council (YAC), where he invited students from the 54th Senate District to become immersed in state government.
“This program is a chance to try to inspire the future leaders of tomorrow to consider a career in public service,” said Senator McClure. “Even if students don’t have any desire to run for office or work in government, we strive to start them on a path to become responsible and engaged citizens.”
Students taking part in the YAC visited the Illinois State Capitol complex on April 21st, where they met with lawmakers, local leaders (including newly elected Springfield Mayor Misty Buscher), lobbyists, and others involved in government.
“It really interests me, I love doing stuff like this. It was really cool to meet Steve McClure and see what he’s about and listen to everyone talk. It’s been a real eye-opening experience,” said Williamsville High School student Ethan Timm. “I think I’m definitely going to take away leadership skills, how to communicate with students I’ve never met before.”
“I wanted to come to the Youth Advisory Council to get a representation of what it would be like to actually be in the space of a political figure and learn more about what it means,” said Litchfield High School student Camden Quarton. “You take civics class, but to actually be in the real thing, it gives a representation of what it’s actually like to vote and learn about real things.”
In the afternoon, the students conducted a mock legislative hearing, held in an actual Senate committee room in the Capitol. They took on the roles of lawmakers, lobbyists, and even concerned citizens as they debated and discussed legislation.
“I think my favorite part was asking people different questions, like the mayor or the Senator, because I felt like it was a one-on-one connection,” said Porta High School student Madelyn Gilbert, who added that she feels that the experience will help her in her future. “Definitely learning how to debate more, and how to have a good debate without just yelling at each other.”
McClure’s YAC program typically meets once per year. He encourages interested high school students to ask their teachers and principals about taking part in the program.
“These students basically become legislators for a day. They learn what it’s like to work with an idea, see it in bill form, and then conduct a mock committee hearing to find out how government actually works,” said McClure. “We had a lot of great students this year, who had a lot of passionate ideas about government and public policy, and it’s inspiring to see them engage in the process.”