Southern Illinois legislator hosts virtual gathering of Youth Advisory Council

Dozens of high school students from across the 59th Senate District in Southern Illinois came together on Nov. 9 for a special event.

The students participated in an annual Youth Advisory Council hosted by State Sen. Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg.

Students from Union County were among those who participated.

Fowler said in a news release that the event offers a unique opportunity for area students to learn about state government and public policy.

“As with many things this year, the ongoing health pandemic created an unprecedented challenge for hosting my annual Youth Advisory Council,” Fowler said.

“However, after reaching out to schools and watching students adapt to changes in the wake of COVID-19, I felt confident that we could still hold this event and provide our students with the opportunity to learn and engage in public policy,” the Southern Illinois legislator continued.

“This is the fourth year I’ve hosted this event and, while it definitely looked different this year, it still provided students with a platform to hear from local leaders, voice their opinions and engage in the issues most important to them.”

This year, due to COVID-19 restrictions and to ensure the safety of area students, Fowler hosted his annual Youth Advisory Council virtually. 

Students from Anna-Jonesboro Community High School, Cobden High School, Zeigler-Royalton High School, Harrisburg High School, Pope County High School, Eldorado High School, Vienna High School, Crab Orchard High School, Hamilton County High School, Benton High School, Carrier Mills High School, Century High School at Ullin, Johnston City High School and Joppa High School participated. 

Students were chosen based on recommendations made by area administrators and local educators.

As part of the event, Fowler invited local community leaders to speak to the students. Guest speakers included:

Jeff McGoy, the director of the Exploratory Student Advisement Center for Learning Support Services at Southern Illinois University; Mike Absher, the mayor of Marion; and Austin A. Lane, the chancellor of SIU Carbondale. 

Fowler also spoke about his experience as an area businessman, state legislator and philanthropist in Southern Illinois.

Students also were asked to participate in a roundtable discussion about issues important to them and how the ongoing health pandemic has impacted their lives.

In the past, this discussion would be the basis for the spring meeting of the Youth Advisory Council, when Fowler would bring the students to Springfield to continue the discussion about the legislative process from the Capitol, and give the students the opportunity to witness state government in action.

“While we do not know what the future holds for this event in the spring, I am hopeful that we will be able to bring these students together again, in one capacity or another, to continue this discussion, provide more insight into state government, and promote civic engagement in a younger generation,” Fowler said.

The Gazette-Democrat

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