HARRISBURG – Fifty students from high schools in the 59th Senate District gathered at the Stadium Club in Carbondale April 20 to learn more about the workings of their state government, as members of State Sen. Dale Fowler’s Student Advisory Council.
The students were recommended by officials from their respective schools to participate in the program.
“Our Student Advisory Council provides an opportunity for our best and brightest young people to learn more about how the General Assembly works, and how to take an idea and shepherd it through the process of becoming a law,” said Fowler (R-Harrisburg). “These students assume different roles in the process of passing laws, which complements what they have learned in the classroom.”
On April 20, the students met with Sen. Fowler, then heard presentations by:
- Meera Komarraju, Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Professor of Applied Psychology at Southern Illinois University (SIU).
- SIU graduate DeAnna Price, an American track and field athlete competing primarily in the hammer throw, who represented the United States in the 2021 Olympic Games.
- Sebastian Chou, President and CEO of Summit Enterprises Services Incorporated.
- Joe Cervantez, State’s Attorney of Jackson County.
Students then convened at the SIU Law School Court room for their mock committee hearing, assuming the roles of lawmakers, the Governor, concerned citizens, lobbyists, and reporters to debate an issue they chose. After hearing testimony about proposed legislation from the students serving as lobbyists and concerned citizens, the students serving as lawmakers voted on the issue. A student serving as Governor then weighed in on the decision.
Two of the student participants said the Student Advisory Council gave them unique insights into government, as well as provided professional development opportunities like public speaking and networking with students from other schools in their region.
“My favorite part was being part of a mock council because it let me know what it’s like to be a Senator,” said T.J. Stone, a junior at Marion High School. “It’s important for students to get involved because they are the future of said government. If we understand how it works early on, we can be more prepared to take over.”
Senior Maia Hayden from Vienna High School said, “It was such an amazing experience. Getting to have a glance into how legislation is made and passed is super interesting! I really enjoyed being able to be the Sponsor Senator! I found a new respect for the actual Senators who have to sit in session for hours at a time. I’m very thankful to have the experience!”