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Council showcases state government to high schoolers

Dozens of high school students from across state attended state Sen. Sue Rezin’s Youth Advisory Council May 1, a biannual event giving a hands-on, up-close experience in state government.

“This is an opportunity for those interested in public policy and government to see the legislative process up close,” said Rezin, R-Morris, in a news release. “Their classroom for the day was the Capitol. It’s critical that young people are engaged in public policy because we need good leaders for the future. Whether it’s local, state or federal government, the future of communities will depend on those who are in school now.”

Rezin hosted the all-day Youth Advisory Council in both the Capitol and Stratton Building next to the Capitol, talking with students from Hall, La Salle-Peru, Ottawa, Reed-Custer, Serena, Streator, Coal City and Wilmington high schools about Illinois government and how the Legislature operates. She shared stories of her experiences in the Statehouse, discussed what it takes to become a legislator, talked about why public policy is important and answered questions.

Emma Harris, a student from Streator High, has attended the Youth Advisory Council five times.

“I am interested in politics and how lawmakers make decisions,” Harris said. “I enjoy coming to the Capitol because they talk us through the actual voting process, and we get to hear positions from lawmakers.”

Like Harris, L-P High student Grace McCormick said she has a similar interest in politics.

“I’ve always been interested in politics and how to make the world a better place,” said Grace McCormick, from L-P High School. “What I learned from this Youth Advisory Council is that doing what is best for the most amount of people is the most important — not necessarily about your own interests.”

Ottawa High student Keegan Nagle also attended this spring’s council, citing a positive experience at the inside look at legislation.

“I really enjoyed learning how bills are debated and how they become law,” Nagle said. “I learned a lot about what goes on in Springfield, and it was really interesting.”

“One of the biggest things I learned today is you can’t always get what you want, and that compromise is important,” said Paige Sheppard, from L-P. “It’s really important to listen to what other people have to say and see what you can do to create compromise.”

The students also toured the Capitol and spent time on the Senate floor. They also heard from state Sen. Tom Rooney, who also is currently a high school economics teacher, as well as lobbyists Abby Walsh and Jim Fletcher.

The students, who were selected by teachers and principals to participate, later worked in small groups to propose mock legislation and then discussed and debated their proposals with the entire group. Rezin moderated the debate, asking the students questions about their proposals.

“This is truly my favorite event of the year,” Rezin said. “It is inspiring to see the students’ energy, passion and drive on issues that matter to them, and to see them soak up everything they heard and saw throughout the day. If anyone doubts that young people are not engaged in public policy, this Youth Advisory Council is a refreshing reminder that young people do care, and they want to help make the future better.”

Rezin will host another session this fall in the 38th Senate District. Rezin started her Youth Advisory Council in 2016.

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