Students from more than a dozen Illinois high schools are trying their hands at crafting new state legislation. It’s all part of State Senator Jason Barickman’s (R-Bloomington) “Youth Advisory Council.”
Sixty-five high school students joined Senator Barickman at his first “Youth Advisory Council” at Heartland Community College on November 13. The Senator described the event as an opportunity to not only demonstrate to the students the significant role of government in their lives, but engage the young people in the legislative process.
“These students are the future leaders of our communities, our state and our nation,” said Barickman. “The Youth Advisory Council was developed as a way to engage young people in state government, show them that their opinions and contributions are important, and that they can play a direct role in shaping public policy. What better way than to allow them to actually take part in the process of making laws? ”
Students from over a dozen high schools joined together to learn about the functions of local and state government. The students were divided into smaller breakout groups to brainstorm specifically on legislation they believe is needed in Illinois. They were able to discuss relevant topics within their communities and come up with potential legislation to be considered by the General Assembly.
“Listening to these students work through these issues was eye opening,” said Barickman. “As young people they have a different perspective, and I was impressed by how insightful and thoughtful many of their suggestions were.”
Representatives from both state and local government also spoke to the group, explaining the role they play in their respective positions. Senator Barickman was joined by State Representative Dan Brady; McLean County Sheriff Mike Emery; Associate Judge William Yoder; Illinois Farm Bureau Legislative Director Kevin Semlow; and ISU Men’s Basketball Coach Dan Muller. Students also learned about the legislative process and how a bill becoming a law in Illinois.
“It’s really exciting, I mean to think that we can have a voice, and that our opinions can be heard, you know we’re just high school kids,” said Kristina Smith, a senior from Normal Community West. “But we got the chance to offer our opinion on something that maybe doesn’t always get heard, so Senator Barickman got to hear that, and it was an awesome opportunity.”
The Senator said he is planning for the students to return for a follow up Youth Advisory Council in Springfield during the Spring 2015 session, with hopes of filing a piece of legislation related to the discussions from Thursday’s meeting.