State Sen. Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg, welcomed more than four dozen students from across the 59th Senate District to his youth advisory council meeting at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. Photo provided.

Area legislator welcomes youth advisory council to Springfield

More than four dozen students from the 59th Senate District in Southern Illinois travelled to Springfield last week to participate in the second meeting of State Sen. Dale Fowler’s youth advisory council. 

“This program is about giving students the opportunity to learn about and experience their state government directly, pulling back the curtain and enabling a younger generation to see how the legislative process operates here in Illinois,” Fowler, R-Harrisburg, said in a news release.

“One of the most exciting parts about hosting this event is being able to interact with kids from my district who are motivated to make a difference, share their voices and be engaged.”

Students from 17 different schools across the district arrived at the Illinois State Capitol on Feb. 28. 

Students began their day by visiting the state Senate Chambers and touring the Capitol building before speaking with lawmakers who represent districts across the state. 

The students also heard from Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, a representative from the chamber of commerce and the acting division manager of fairs and promotional services with the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

“State government is a culmination of so many moving parts with actors fulfilling very different, but still critical roles in crafting, debating and passing legislation,” Fowler said.

“It’s great to have the opportunity to introduce these kids to speakers with unique perspectives that help represent different opinions, responsibilities and influence within our state’s policy process.”

“One of the main things was to take advantage of the opportunities you have,” Cairo High School student Jekairy Thomas said about hearing the speakers.

 Alexandria Hughes from Pope County High School echoed those sentiments:  “If you want something, go for it. Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure only builds you. And be proud of where you came from and where your home is.”

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 think it’s important for kids to do things like this because it kind of gives you a different perspective than what you just have,” Herrin High School student Morgan McKinnies said. 

“You come in and realize what people have and what they take away from things and why they view things the way they do. It kind of gives you a sort of reality check of what you believe and what you don’t believe.”  

“This is something extremely important and valuable to your education. You’re only able to experience these kinds of things here and through programs like this. And if you do not take the opportunities presented to you, it’s your loss,” said Tyler Short from Marion High School.

Students spent the afternoon hearing testimony, lobbying and discussing their proposed legislation to expand the right to conceal and carry firearms in public parks and athletic facilities under the control of municipalities or park districts. 

At the end of the day, the students voted to pass their suggested proposal.

“This was my first time hosting this event in Springfield and I couldn’t be more 

The Gazette-Democrat

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