Dozens of high school students from across the 38th Senate District participated in a unique, hands-on experience in public policy, state government, and leadership Nov. 27, as part of State Sen. Sue Rezin’s Youth Advisory Council.
“This is one of my favorite experiences of the year because I get to meet so many incredible, hardworking, and enthusiastic young people,” Rezin said. “The next time I hear someone say that young people are not interested in public policy and are not engaged in the issues, I will tell them about this group of students. My belief that there are plenty of talented and smart people to be tomorrow’s leaders is always reinforced by this Youth Advisory Council. If any one of these students wants to pursue a career in public policy, I hope this experience energizes them even more.”
Rezin hosted the all-day Youth Advisory Council in Morris, with students selected by their principals and teachers from Morris Community High School, St. Bede Academy, Ottawa Township High School, Streator Township High School, Wilmington High School, Coal City High School, Reed Custer High School, Newark High School, Hall High School, and Serena High School.
Rezin spoke about how Illinois government works, shared her experiences at the Statehouse, and explained how public policy can shape the students’ everyday lives.
Students also spent time in small groups discussing and debating policy issues important to them and how any new proposal could face challenges or become successful legislation. During these discussions, Rezin spent time with each small group, asking students questions about their proposed policy change and how they would advocate for their issue.
Students also heard from U.S. Congressman Adam Kinzinger, State Rep. David Welter, and Tawnya Mack, a CPA and Partner at Mack and Associates in Morris.
The panel shared stories of their experiences in the workforce and provided first-hand knowledge about public policy, leadership, and how to be successful.
“I liked debating everyone and listening to other people’s ideas and comparing them to my ideas,” said John Moore from Hall H.S. “It was a good learning experience and to see how politics work.”
“I am interested in politics, working with other people, and I enjoy talking with people about current events,” said Regan O’Fallon from Ottawa Township H.S. “Getting to debate current issues with other students and hearing from the speakers was great.”
“I am interested in local politics, so I thought it would be a good idea to come out to this and get involved,” said Christian Riggs from Morris Community H.S. “I thought our conversation about current issues like legalizing marijuana was interesting and hearing from Congressman Kinzinger talk about what it’s like to be a member of Congress was interesting.”
“To me, politics is always interesting, there is always something to talk about, and it’s a good way to possibly find a career path,” said Brandon DeJong from Hall H.S. “I learned there is more to politics than meets the eye.”
“I found out I like to debate more than I thought I did,” said Kassidy Brady from St. Bede Academy. “It’s fun to see my opinion against someone else’s opinion. We can sometimes be closed minded, so you have to remember that others can have good points too.”
In the spring, Sen. Rezin’s Youth Advisory Council continues when students visit the Statehouse in Springfield. There, they will tour the Capitol, experience the legislative process up close, be active participants in a mock committee hearing, and hear from legislative leaders about what it’s like to do their job.
Sen. Rezin started her Youth Advisory Council in the spring of 2016.