Nearly 50 high school students from across the 33rd Senate District participated in a unique, hands-on experience in public policy, state government, and leadership during State Senator Don DeWitte’s first annual Youth Advisory Council on Tuesday, November 5.
“This is my first year hosting this event, and I was amazed and encouraged by how engaged and involved these students were in public policy and current events,” said. Sen. DeWitte. “It is my hope that these students gained a better perspective and understanding of how state government works. After getting to know these bright and intelligent individuals, I have no doubt our future is in great hands.”
DeWitte hosted the all-day event at Judson University in Elgin. Participating students were selected by teachers and principals from Harvest Christian Academy, Harry D. Jacobs, Huntley, St. Charles, and St. Charles East high schools.
Students started off the day hearing from not only Sen. DeWitte, but a variety of other speakers including Dr. Gene C. Crume, Jr., Judson University President; Brian Townsend, Schaumburg Village Manager; Judge Elizabeth Flood, Circuit Judge, 16th Judicial Circuit; and Tony Dorsch, Retired Chief Pilot at Southwest Airlines.
Students then broke off into groups, where they were asked to work together to develop ideas for possible new state legislation. During these discussions, DeWitte spent time with each small group, asking students questions about their proposed policy change and how they would advocate for their issue. At the end of the day, each group presented their proposal and took questions from the rest of the group.
“This program gave me more experience in collaborating with peers that have different opinions than me,” said Nathan Rost, senior at Harry D. Jacobs High School. “I’ve learned that when we have a civil discussion, we find that we aren’t that different from each other.”
“It was interesting to talk to people my own age to get a better understanding of their thoughts and opinions,” said Grace Klement, junior at Huntley High School. “I hope to take away better leadership and collaboration skills.”
Sen. DeWitte’s Youth Advisory Council is a two-part experience. Students will meet with Sen. DeWitte again in the spring where they will participate in a mock committee hearing at the State Capitol in Springfield.