State Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) welcomed more than 80 students from across the 53rd Senate District to the Illinois State University Alumni Center to immerse themselves in the process of developing and proposing new legislation.
“This is an opportunity to learn about the issues our high school students care about, and for them to learn about how the legislative process works,” said Sen. Barickman. “If we can engage them in government and civics now, they will have a better chance of staying informed and involved in their communities and their government.”
Senator Barickman’s Youth Advisory Council, first launched in 2014, invites high school juniors and seniors from the 53rd District to come together with their peers to propose new ideas for legislation while at the same time developing a better understanding of government.
“I’ve always had an interest in politics, and this gave me the perfect opportunity to see what my future career could hold and to mingle with other students around the state and fix our problems that surround our state,” said Hoopeston High School student Daniel Bass. “This has helped me to make my decision to go into politics, help people around the state and community, and it just gave me the opportunity to learn more.”
“I had so much fun today, it was great. I think now, more than ever, we really need to get people my age involved in the political process and just recognizing how much fun it can be,” said Normal West High School student Danielle Cross. “I think this really helped me, in regard to speaking in front of people and organizing my ideas in such a way that it could be easily presented to others, and to try and create a compelling argument.”
The students met with Senator Barickman, as well as Representatives Dan Brady (R-Bloomington) and Tom Bennet (R-Gibson City), as well as local business leader Habeeb Habeeb, President/CEO of BPC and Founder of H Squared.
The students then broke into smaller groups to discuss ideas for new legislation, including everything from gun legislation to misdemeanor sentencing reform.
“It showed me that there’s different people with different perspectives, and we’re all coming together in one place, and we have different ideas and we just gotta work together to come up with solutions to our problems,” said Watseka High School student Noah Burger. “It was a great time, very motivational, very inspirational, it helps me in pursuing my career and really motivates me.”
“I would describe it as a very unusual session that changes the way you view politics in the state of Illinois and maybe even nationally,” said University High School student Rohan Kamatar. “I’m not necessarily considering a career in politics, but every day involves working with teammates and bosses and all of that, so interacting in that sort of setting, being able to come to agreements, even when you have different approaches, is a very valuable skill.”
“For my (future) career, it helps to be talking to people and getting a good view on what they think, and helping read them, to where you can cooperate and work through difficult situations with them,” said Fieldcrest student Andy Weisenhofer.
The students eventually voted to advance a proposal to change how property tax funds are distributed to schools. That legislation will be taken up again by the students during a mock committee hearing at their next meeting, which will take place at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield during the spring legislative session.
“It’s impressive to hear the students debate so passionately about such a broad variety of issues,” said Barickman. “I’m hopeful that some of these students can use this experience as a first step toward a career in government service.”