On March 6, more than four dozen students from the 59th District traveled to the Capitol to participate in the spring meeting of State Senator Dale Fowler’s (R-Harrisburg) Youth Advisory Council (YAC).
“This is an immersive opportunity for students from Southern Illinois to visit the legislature, hear from lawmakers and experience state government firsthand. For many here today, this is their first time visiting Illinois’ Capitol,” said Fowler. “Today is about giving these students an opportunity to partake in the policy process, encourage them to find their voice and hopefully inspire a younger generation to take an active interest in their state and community affairs.”
“I’ve actually never been to the Capitol building,” said Nigel Williams from Cairo Jr/Sr High School. “It’s just been an awesome experience.”
Students from 14 different schools across the district arrived at the Capitol on March 6, beginning their day in the Senate Chambers and touring the Capitol building before speaking with lawmakers who represent districts across the state. The students also heard from Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton and former-State Senator Pamela Althoff who retired from service in 2018 and is now a lobbyist.
“It was important for the students to have the chance to hear from speakers with different backgrounds, diverse political beliefs and unique roles in state government,” said Senator Fowler. “The reality is, policy creation is a complex process, involving input and participation from several different actors and entities. I wanted today’s participants to see just how cooperative and involved the process can be.”
Later in the day, students were immersed in a simulation of Illinois’ legislative process, breaking into groups and participating in a mock committee hearing on legislation that was proposed by the students when they met in November. Students took on the roles of lawmakers, lobbyists, concerned citizens, and reporters in the process.
“I really wanted to learn from other people in my area—what they thought were issues that we face today,” said Anna Madura from Anna-Jonesboro High School.
Students spent the afternoon hearing testimony, lobbying and discussing their proposed legislation to funnel state income tax for minors into a fund that can be used for in-state college tuition. At the end of the day, the students voted not to pass their suggested proposal.
“Through this, my eyes were opened. I didn’t realize how many people it takes to create a bill and how many opinions and challenges you have to overcome,” said Callie Oxford from Harrisburg High School.
“We had an impressive and bright group of students who really engaged in the process today,” said Fowler. “I hope the students learned something from this experience, have a better understanding for how things are done in the General Assembly and realize that they can make a real difference.”