High school students from across the 53rd Senate District did their best to try to advance real legislation to improve their state at State Senator Jason Barickman’s (R-Bloomington) Youth Advisory Council.
“My hope is that we can find a way to engage these students in the inner-workings of government so that we can help them grow into tomorrow’s leaders,” said Senator Barickman. “And for me, I get to learn about the problems that they are most concerned with, and the ypes of changes they would like to see take happen.”
Senator Barickman’s Youth Advisory Council featured students from more than a dozen area high schools, with home-school students represented as well. The students met at the Illinois State University Alumni Center to hear from, and meet with local government and political leaders.
"I really like the ability to interact with state officials because it's important that they can get a feel for what our say is," said University High School Junior Henry Wissmiller. "I'm extremely excited to be to be in a realistic scenario to propose ideas to lawmakers."
The students were divided into small groups to discuss major issues important to them, as well as propose their own ideas for new legislation. All the ideas received a thorough debate and then several rounds of voting to determine the “bill” that would advance.
"I like that we hit on current topics because I think the younger generation is who that affects the most," said Pontiac High School Senior Aubrey Gill. "It's really exciting that we can be part of government and that we get to take part in the grand scheme of things."
The students’ proposals ranged from requiring a photo ID to vote, to a plan to legalize recreational marijuana, with the eventual winner being a bill related to firearm education.
"This is a great opportunity to come and see and learn about the legislature and what's happening in our government," said Paxton Buckley Loda High School Senior Dalton Coplea. "It's good for the Senators to see about what young people want and are advocating for."
The students will next meet at the Illinois State Capitol during the spring legislative session to take up their legislation in a mock committee hearing, where they will assume the roles of lawmakers, lobbyists, concerned citizens, and even the governor.
“It’s so refreshing to see how in-touch these students are with the major issues affecting our state and our world,” said Sen. Barickman. “I am very hopeful that some of them will be able to use experiences like this as a springboard toward future careers in government.”
In addition to Senator Barickman, speakers at the event included Representatives Dan Brady (R-Bloomington) and Tom Bennett (R-Watseka), as well as Habeeb Habeeb, President/CEO of BPC and founder of H Squared.