Teens at Capitol Hill

Empowering young people who are defining our future in positive ways is the most exciting work I will ever do…Supporting teachers, educators, parents, and community members as they empower young people is the important work I hope to continue to do. This is the mission of Envision Education Consultants.
On Wednesday, March 9, we took a group of teens and adults to Springfield, IL for an annual political Action Day. What a life-changing experience!

Before the event, we watched videos on last year’s event (for those who were new to get a glimpse of what it may look like), we watched SchoolHouse Rock videos (Little Bill singing “I’m Just a Bill…On Capitol Hill”), and we trained students from our own experiences with local legislators.

Our students and adults created index cards with their names, organization’s title, personal talking points on the issues, and were ready to enter the capitol dressed in suits and dresses, smiles on their faces, and a crisp one-minute prepared speech. We also passed out muffins, orange juice and candy on the bus. I think this sugar-high helped them keep a great mood all day long!

We met several representatives and senators and watched one committee meeting where we understood the issues at hand. Students begged State Treasurer Dan Rutherford’s assistant to let us in to see him (anyone with a teenager at home knows how persistent they can be!) and we took photos with him as three students grilled him about funding for educational programs. The highlight for us was when the students were given a shout out in the House of Representatives. We all stood up and waved as the members gave us a hand for being there to support our legislative system. Rep. Will Davis facilitated this memorable event.

We had a reflection session after our meetings and these are some student comments.
(Sorry about all the exclamation points. This is how teens speak):
“I didn’t know how real these people were. I was just able to go up to them and tell them what I thought was important about our laws!”
“I loved sitting in on a committee meeting. I never realized how bills are voted on and passed to the next level.”
“There were 1000 of us here!”
“I can’t believe we got applauded by the House of Representatives- unreal!!!”
“Rep. Connelly spent 20 minutes with us! He gave us tips on how to become the next representatives!”
“I liked our contest to see who would talk to the most people for one-minute. I felt like I had to talk and keep sharing my points!”
“The building is beautiful. Our architecture class made me think about the building.”
Many other reflections are available upon request…

I kept offering to take the students and adults to lunch and the students just didn’t want to leave. We ate lunch at 3:45 because they were too busy talking with legislators, lobbyists, security guards and anyone else who needed to know why we were there.
Last, every student will email a thank you to those we met. This is our “homework/follow-up”.

The power of young people who have 1.knowledge about current issues, 2. the desire to make a change, and 3. the preparation that makes them organized, is palpable!

We are learning that a true citizen is one who loves his/her country enough to strive to make it even better!

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