On November 15, State Sen. Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg) welcomed dozens of high school students from across the 59th Senate District to his first-ever Youth Advisory Council, a unique, hands-on opportunity for area students to learn about and experience state government and public policy.
“Today is about giving high school students a look into how state government operates, and providing insight into the legislative process. This is about giving students an experience that explores and simulates what they spend years in school learning about from books and in classrooms,” said Sen. Fowler. “Beyond that, my objective for hosting this event is to inspire and empower students to find their voice, be innovative and get involved. Each and every student here has the potential to be future leaders, intellectuals and role models, and it is important that I do what I can in my position to encourage their interest and motivate their growth.”
Fowler hosted his all-day Youth Advisory Council at the Southeastern Illinois College in Harrisburg, bringing together students selected by their principals and teachers from Crab Orchard High School, Galatia High School, Goreville High School, Sesser Vailer High School, Zeigler Royalton High School, Harrisburg High School, Massac County High School, Carterville High School, Shawnee High School, Herrin High School, Pope County High School, Eldorado High School, Anna-Jonesboro High School, Thompsonville High School, Carrier Mills High School, Vienna High School, Joppa High School, Marion High School, Meridian High School and Cairo High School.
Sen. Fowler kicked off the event by welcoming the students and congratulating them on their selection for the Council, before providing some personal insight into his experience as an area businessman, state legislator and philanthropist in Southern Illinois.
Students then spent the morning hearing from local leaders in the community, including: Russell Williams, Director of the Brehm Foundation; Matt Lees, Chair of the Social Science Division and Professor of Political Science and Sociology at Southeastern Illinois College; Raj Nayar, Founder & CEO, Innov8: Entrepreneurship and Humanitarianism in Medicine; Connor James, Founder & CEO, Meaningfull Books. The guest speakers gave the students insight about their different careers, advice about leadership and other tips on how to be successful.
Afterward, the students broke into small groups to debate, discuss, and craft policy proposals for consideration later in the day. Sen. Fowler worked with each group, answering questions, discussing the legislative process and helping the students finalize their legislation topics.
“From what I heard today, these kids have definitive opinions, unique perspectives and are ready to make their mark on the world,” said Fowler. “Each group had really great ideas and I’m excited to see what happens during our next meeting in the spring.”
“Everyone should be involved in state government, and it’s great to have this opportunity and explore any possibilities for a future career,” said Sam Hirsch from Vienna High School.
“I feel like this is a great opportunity for the youth of today to participate in government since we’re the next generation that’s going to be in charge of the Illinois system,” said Trevor Whittington from Carterville High School. “It’s important to be a leader and it was a great opportunity to come out and be here.”
“It was nice to get involved and talk about what you’ve been feeling,” said Tucker Murphy from Pope County High School. “I think it’s important for everyone to get their voice heard so it’s all equally represented.”
In the spring, Sen. Fowler’s Youth Advisory Council will meet again in Springfield, continuing the discussion about the legislative process from the Capitol and giving the students the opportunity to participate in a mock committee hearing and hear from legislative leaders about their role in state government.