Earlier this month, roughly 50 high school students from 16 schools across the 58th Senate District gathered at Rend Lake College to participate in State Senator Terri Bryant’s (R-Murphysboro) annual Youth Advisory Council.
“Through these events, we have found that young people often have unique perspectives on certain issues that are important to them as well as to the adults in their lives,” said Senator Bryant. “I think it's important for legislators to be listening to what those issues are.”
Sen. Bryant’s Youth Advisory Council is a hands-on experience designed to teach local area students about public policy, state government, and leadership. Each high school within the 58th Senate District was able to nominate high school students that they believed showed an interest in government and public service.
“I wanted to be part of this council so I could meet new people and learn more about state government and from the speakers,” said Edwards County High School Student Alice Robb. “I've learned about some different job opportunities along with just how state government works and functions and different roles that people play in it.”
In the morning students heard from successful community leaders, including Illinois Supreme Court Justice David Overstreet, Ina Mayor Jo Ann Joy, Meridian Health Chief Financial Officer Ryan Litteken, and Congressman Mike Bost’s Field Representative Marshall Brown. Students then broke off into groups, where they were asked to work together to develop ideas for possible new state legislation that each group would present to the full Youth Advisory Council.
“I've learned a lot actually so far, not only just about politics and how the government works, but I've also learned the importance of making connections with different people,” said Columbia High School Student Hannah Sperry. “A lot of our speakers today talked about that, and I also gained a connection through Senator Bryant that I hope to use to be able to shadow the Senator at our state Capitol.”
Sen. Bryant spent time during the group discussion with each small group, helping students with their proposals and offering advice on how they could advocate for their issue. When the students presented their ideas, Sen. Bryant helped spur along further debate by asking the groups questions about their legislation.
“I love anything involving the government and creating legislation through school events. That's something I always get involved in at my school, so I thought that this would be a great opportunity,” said Benton High School Student Parker Johnson. “I would recommend this event to future students. We learned a lot of things and it's a great way to make sure that your voice is being heard.”
The students voted to choose one of the proposals to take up in a mock committee hearing at their next meeting, which will be held in the spring at the State Capitol.