Youth have a voice in government and bill writing

Teens in Michigan have the opportunity for a hands-on learning experience about state government by attending 4-H Capitol Experience.

How will government address juvenile crime? What options are available to aging population in Michigan? What issues are important to schools and the students attending them? How are environmental and wildlife concerns resolved in Michigan?

These are just a few options teens can explore at Michigan State University Extension’s 4-H Capitol Experience, a four-day conference that focuses on civic engagement and public policy. Over 100 teens from around the state will converge in Lansing, Michigan, March 20-23, 2016, to experience Michigan government in action.

While at 4-H Capitol Experience, participants will work with a group to select a public policy issue and interact with state legislators, various state agency staff, lobbyists and other experts to learn more about the issue. Through these interactions, participants will explore careers in public policy, network with teens and professionals from around Michigan and learn about the policy process at the state level and how that affects their individual communities.

4-H Capitol Experience is open to all high school teens who are interested in citizenship and how they can make a difference by utilizing their voice. Participants have the opportunity to learn about their local community before the conference by carrying out suggested pre-conference activities, such as working with local government. After attending 4-H Capitol Experience, there are post-activities that can help them apply what they have learned.

According to the National League of Cities in creating opportunities for youth civic engagement, policymakers promote the healthy development of youth as people. Civic engagement provides young people with opportunities to gain work experience, acquire new skills and learn responsibility and accountability, all while contributing to the good of their community.

4-H Capitol Experience provides an opportunity for youth to engage in genuine and meaningful roles with peers and policymakers. Giving teens the opportunity to voice their ideas, develop their own bills, present their bills to policymakers and other stakeholders, and participate in every stage of the legislative process is a valuable lesson in civic engagement.

One participant said the following about his experience, “Participating in Capitol Experience opened my eyes to the importance of being involved in the political process. I learned that my voice can make a difference and I will make sure it does.” He continued to say, “The hands-on process was the most valuable learning experience I have had in learning about government.”

Teens interested in experiencing government in action and being part of a hands-on, experiential learning conference can contact their local MSU Extension office to learn more about the experience or visit the 4-H Capitol Experience website to enroll.

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