4-H Capitol Experience concludes in Lansing

High school youth work to understand the role of their voice in Michigan state government.

4-H Capitol Experience concludes in Lansing

Seventy three high school-aged students from 25 counties across the state descended upon Michigan’s Capitol, March 16-19, 2014, in order to learn about state government and the importance of their voice in state policy while participating in the Michigan State Univesity Extension event, 4-H Capitol Experience. Youth spent four days learning with their peers and participating in topic specific issue groups which included agriculture, crime, drugs and personal safety, education, equality and personal rights, health, environment, and jobs and the economy. Youth, through a participatory learning process, worked in groups to develop mock bills related to their issue area that they followed through all stages of state government using a legislative simulation.

Through this process, youth worked in groups of 10 to 12 to develop mock legislation by brainstorming hot topics in their focus areas. This years bill ideas included road improvement, gun safety and equal pay for women. The following day, youth held committee meetings in order to simulate the committee process at the state government level. During committee youth took on different roles while the issue groups came together to form the House and Senate, further the debate, and vote on the bills. Of the seven issue groups and bills in 2014, four groups bills passed the mock House and Senate, and were signed by Ingham County Clerk, Barb Byrum who acted as the Govonor for this activity.

Simultaneously, youth meet with staff representing state and community agencies, lobbyists, and legislative aides that work in areas related to their issue groups. Through this process, youth learned about potential jobs and were able to gain expert insight on their ideas for bills. Participants also had the chance to observe the house and senate in session and meet in person with their local senators and representatives.

Program participants reflected on their experiences at the event saying:

  • “It has taught me communication skills and responsibility that I will use for the rest of my life. It has made me consider running for office someday,” said a 17-year-old participant from Monroe County.
  • “I now can look at the government in a way where I can change the world. This has definitely broadened my horizons and my confidence,” said a 16-year-old participant from Van Buren County.
  • “I know I want to find a career that will allow me to help others. Personally, politics is not for me, but I know I have a voice even though I’m not a politician,” said a 17-year-old participant from Kalamazoo County.

The 2015 4-H Capitol Experience event is tentatively booked for March 22-25 in Lansing, Mich.

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