Earlier this week, a piece of legislation was heavily scrutinized as the subject of debate in a hearing to decide the proposal’s future, though the individuals conducting the meeting weren’t lawmakers, but high school students from the 53rd Senate District. The event was part of State Senator Tom Bennett’s (R-Gibson City) Youth Advisory Council (YAC) Program.
“This program is a chance for me to connect with young people from the area who are interested in public policy, and then help them to get more involved,” said Bennett. “These are the future leaders of our communities, so it’s important for them to have a good path toward becoming engaged citizens and open their eyes toward possible careers in public service.”
Bennett’s YAC is an ongoing program open to high school students from the 53rd Senate District. Students are able to meet with, and learn from, lawmakers, public advocates, community leaders, and lobbyists to learn more about the legislative process, as well as how to get involved.
“I think it’s really important for us young kids to get involved, because we’re the future generation, and this could be us in a few years, and we need to know what we’re doing when we get to that time,” said El Paso Gridley High School student Lincoln Ringger. “I think it could benefit me on formulating opinions, taking both sides in, not being biased to anything, taking my own personal opinions out of it, and just listening to everybody.”
On April 3rd, the students were in Pontiac, where they conducted a mock legislative hearing, serving as legislators, concerned citizens, and advocates, to debate legislation.
“It’s taught me different ways of talking to people, communication and different problem-solving skills and being able to apply that to the real world,” said Prairie Central High School student Abram Cutrell. “Even if you don’t want to go into politics, it teaches you to get out of your comfort zone and talk to others and think about things in a different way.”
Senator Bennett’s Youth Advisory Council will start again in the fall. He recommends that anyone interested in attending should ask their teacher or principal at their school about taking part. Homeschooled students are also welcome, and parents can inquire about the program by contacting Senator Bennett’s district office. Contact information can be found at SenatorTomBennett.com.