Dozens of high school students from across the 36th Senate District participated in a unique, hands-on experience in public policy, state government, and leadership Dec. 5 in Moline, as part of State Sen. Neil Anderson’s Youth Advisory Council.
“It’s encouraging to see so many young people take an interest in public policy and see their passion when discussing issues important to them,” Sen. Anderson said. “The future of our country, state, and communities will need great leaders – political, business, non-profit, teaching, and everything in between – that not only understand what it takes to be a dynamic and influential leader, but that also have the talents, knowledge, and courage to make where we live and work even better. I saw those future leaders in my Youth Advisory Council.”
Anderson spoke about how Illinois government works, shared his 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 and how any new proposal could face challenges or become successful legislation. During these discussions, Sen. Anderson spent time with each small group, asking students questions about their proposed policy change and how they would advocate for their issue.
“I learned a lot about how state government works from Sen. Anderson,” said Savannah Hampton from Moline H.S. “I recently worked in the U.S. Senate as a Page and saw how our federal government works. Now, I am interested in how state government works. So, this was a great experience.”
“I really liked the different ideas that each table came up for issues such as college tuition,” said Mikey Scarpinato from Alleman H.S. “To learn more about what is going on in my state also made this a great experience.”
“It was a really good experience,” said Elena Martinez from Rock Ridge H.S. “We talked about how we can improve our government and get Illinois out of bankruptcy. I found it interesting how big of a deal politics can be when trying to find a resolution to problems.”
“I really thought Sen. Anderson’s opinions and ideas were interesting to hear, and it was cool hearing from and talking several community leaders, especially the CEO of Hungry Hobo,” Caleb McCoy from Morrison H.S. said. “As a high school student, you don’t get to hear a lot about local politics so and I thought this Youth Advisory Council was a great opportunity.”
“I learned that a lot of times, politicians can be portrayed as not wanting to work across the aisle, but with Sen. Anderson, he does work across the aisle and showed me there are good people in politics,” Brad Fritts from Newman Central Catholic H.S. said. “My cousins and dad were in politics, and I have two uncles who are judges. Politics is something I’d like to pursue. It was nice to be in an environment with other students who are interested in issues and talk about how we can improve our future.”
Students also heard from former Illinois State Rep. Pat Verschoore, Hungry Hobo President and CEO Pryce Boeye, Rock Island Mayor Mike Thoms, and Total Solutions Inc. CEO Aaron Tennant. The panel shared stories of their experiences in the workforce and provided first-hand knowledge about public policy, leadership, and how to be successful.
Sen. Anderson hosted the all-day Youth Advisory Council in Moline at the Western Illinois University Quad Cities campus. Students were selected by their principals and teachers from Rock Falls High School, United Township High School, Alleman High School, Moline High School, Rock Island High School, Rockridge High School, Fulton High School, Erie High School, Morrison High School, Riverdale High School, East Moline Christian School, and Newman Central Catholic High School in Sterling.
In the spring, Sen. Anderson’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. Anderson started his Youth Advisory Council in the spring of 2016.