4-H Capitol Experience engages youth in the political process

Participants at 4-H Capitol Experience learn important life skills and leadership.

In March of 2013, 70 high-school students from across Michigan gathered at Michigan’s capitol anxious to learn about state government and the importance of their voice in state policy at 4-H Capitol Experience. Youth spent the three days learning about different issues alongside their peers. Focus issue groups included agriculture, crime, drugs, personal safety, education, equality, personal rights, health, jobs and the economy.  Within these groups, youth developed mock bills related to their issue and tried to get their fellow participants to pass the bill during a legislative simulation.  Simultaneously, youth met with state and community agencies, lobbyists, and legislative aides that work in areas related to their topics.  Participants also had the chance to observe the house and senate in session and meet in person with their state senators and representatives. 

According to Michigan State University Extension, participants completed an evaluation to reflect on what they learned as a result of their participation in 4-H Capitol Experience and found that:

  • 87 percent of participants agreed, or strongly agreed that they can think critically about public policy issues and suggested ideas for improvement.
  • 88 percent of participants agreed, or strongly agreed that they are open to different points of view.
  • 96 percent of participants agreed, or strongly agreed that they plan to vote when they turn 18.
  • 91 percent of participants agreed, or strongly agreed that they feel an individual teen can influence state government policies.

Youth reflected on their experiences saying,

  • “Capitol Experience helped me realize that my voice and contribution of ideas are valid regardless of my age and that I can make a difference.”
  • “I have a better idea of what I can do.  Instead of saying ‘I want to go into politics,’ I can be more specific.  I also know you don’t have to be a politician to be in the political process.”
  • “Capitol Experience showed me that politics and working with others is extremely important to get anything done.”
  • “Now I know who I can contact if I have a concern or an idea.  I am also positive about my [future] career choice.”

The 2014 4-H Capitol Experience event is scheduled for March 16-19.  Registration will open December 2013.