Passionate debates, lobbying for important causes, and voting on new ideas are all parts of the lawmaking process. This week, high school students from the 41st Senate District had the chance to experience that process as part of State Senator John Curran’s (R-Downers Grove) Youth Advisory Council program.
“There are very bright young minds throughout the district that are very interested in public policy and its effects on their communities, who want to learn more and get more involved,” said Curran. “This program is an opportunity for them to see how it works from the inside and to explore the process and potentially learn about future careers in public service.”
The students gathered at the Lemont Village Hill to learn more about the process of crafting legislation, by hearing from local leaders involved in public policy. The students also had an opportunity to discuss and debate local, state, and national issues, and see how these issues affect their daily lives.
“I think it’s very important for students to get involved, because then they a very good mindset going into their adult life, so not only do they know what’s going on they know the background behind it and are able to make a lot better decisions in the future,” Lemont High School senior Caroline Bukowski.
The students spent the afternoon portion of the event in a mock legislative committee hearing, where students took on the roles of legislators and advocates on both sides of a mock legislative proposal to legalize fireworks.
“In the mock committee, I am on the opposing side of the bill and we are working on showing the negative aspects of it and the impact it would have, and learning how this sort of thing works on a smaller scale.” said Lyons Township High School Virginia Morkin. “It’s helped me so much in understanding how things are run and understanding politics in general.”
“I view it as an awesome opportunity, I get to learn more about how state and local governments function, just really seeing firsthand what that looks like,” said Downers Grove North High School Senior Justin Koblich. He added that he appreciates the focus on state and local government at the event, “I feel like today’s generation does a pretty good job of getting involved, but a lot of the activism I see in younger kids today is all focused on the national level, but I think local and state government goes a little under-represented with the younger generation.”
After some passionate testimony, debate on the issue, and a thorough discussion of the merits for and against the proposal, the student legislators eventually voted to advance their legislation.
“It’s been fascinating to see what they bring from their backgrounds and experiences to this debate and how they go about trying to advance or stop the legislation,” said Senator Curran. “They’re going to be making a lot of big decisions in their lifetime, and it’s important that they start thinking early about public policy and its role in their community, and why things should or shouldn’t be done. I hope that greater participation in the process now, like this, is going to lead to greater involvement and better results for them in their futures.”
Senator Curran’s Youth Advisory Council program meets twice each year, once in the fall semester and once in the spring. If you know of a high school student in the 41st Senate District who would like to take part, you can contact Curran’s district office at 630-796-2623, or electronically at his website at SenatorCurran.com.