Youth in politics

On Thursday, Oct. 3, Illinois State Senator Steve McClure hosted a new Youth Advisory Council program. Senator McClure posted on his website that “This is a way for me to try to get younger people more involved with our government and more involved with the issues that we’re dealing with.” Senator McClure, who represents Illinois’ 50th Senate District, invited over 60 students to University of Illinois Springfield to discuss local policy and learn about state government. 

Students represented by Senator McClure traveled from nine different counties to attend the event, which included three guest speakers: Mark Maxwell, Capitol Bureau Chief for WCIA; Bernard Schoenburg, political columnist for the State Journal-Register; Jim Langfelder, mayor of Springfield. The program also focused on discussions about local government, debates on issues chosen by the students and a group activity in the afternoon. Each group chose an issue they felt strongly about and created a proposal for new legislation. After presenting them, the students at large voted on a proposal. The winning plan focused on free college for all, which will be debated by the larger group at the next session in the spring. 

Two students from Springfield High School attended– seniors Molly Harms and Breckyn Lyons. Regarding the experience, Lyons said, “It was a great opportunity to network with other high schoolers in the area who were also interested in politics,” indicating how the event brought together numerous students with similar interests. Lyons also said, “I realized how little I truly know about Illinois politics as a whole, when it in fact has the greatest bearing on my day-to-day life.” 

Harms, who plans on majoring in political science next year, said, “Illinois politics are actually really fascinating once you figure out what’s going on. It can be a little bit confusing at first, but at the end of the day it’s really important because our lives are so intertwined with what’s happening at the statehouse only a few minutes away from our school.”

This program is coming along as teens appear to be politically apathetic on a nationwide scale. Young people are, however, becoming more involved than in the past, with voter turnout increasing to 36% among 18-29 year olds in the 2018 midterm elections according to the Census Bureau. Senator McClure’s plan to involve young people follows a pattern of trying to make politics more appealing for high schoolers and college students. 

While politics are usually regarded as something for older people, Senator McClure, who at age 35 is one of the youngest state senators, and the students involved in his Youth Advisory Council are proving that all people can use their voices and be involved if they feel strongly about something. By teaching younger generations to educate themselves on local politics and speak up about political issues, Senator McClure is showing how the world of politics belongs to everyone.

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