An inspiring piece I wrote for the Piatt County Journal-Republican, published on April 9, 2008. A nice story on politics in politically jaded Illinois.
Area teenagers now have a stronger voice in the political issues that affect them, thanks to Eastern Illinois University sophomore Eric Wilber, a Monticello High School graduate who works as an intern for State Rep. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet).
With the blessing of Rose, Wilber launched last year the 100th District Student Advisory Panel, which seeks the questions, suggestions, opinions and overall input of students from 15 area high schools.
“It’s just nice to know that there’s people in the government who care about young people’s input,” said Andrew Arseneau, a senior at Cerro Gordo High School.
With Rose and Wilber in attendance at the first panel meeting at Tuscola High School last December, teen members of the panel discussed diverse current-event issues such as No Child Left Behind, voting, a recent video-game law and newly implemented state rules that affect teen curfews and the effort to attain a driver’s license.
“A lot of students don’t like the curfew laws that were put into place,” said Michael Duff, a junior at Cerro Gordo.
Rose said the teen advisory panel is in its infancy and could be viewed as an experiment. He added that he was wowed by the mostly engaged manner of the 29 members.
“Some of the kids impressed the heck out of me with the acuity of their questions,” Rose said.
The criteria for selecting the junior and senior students who comprise the panel included finding those who were most enamored with politics and had demonstrated leadership skills.
Rose described the first panel meeting as an “informal dialogue” with multiple political viewpoints expressed. Wilber took notes at the panel’s first meeting as ideas by the students were put forth. Feasible suggestions that turn out to have the most applicability to the state legislature could be discussed further and pursued, Rose said.
Rose described the first panel meeting as an “informal dialogue” with multiple political viewpoints expressed.
Along with offering standout, busy teens a political education and a chance to voice their opinions, Rose said that witnessing the political process firsthand in Springfield would be an invaluable experience for panel members and lead to more astute feedback from the students.
“My next goal is to get a day when they could all come over to Springfield … that’s where I think the kids actually get the most benefit,” Rose said.
Carson King and Tyler Cravens represent Monticello High School on the advisory panel. Other panel members include Meghann Shelato and Katie Romack (Bement), Wade Willoughby (Atwood-Hammond), Amanda Harris and Amanda Lawrence (Blue Ridge), Ari Newton and Katie Wagers (Mahomet-Seymour) and Joe Bateman and Nash Ramage (Deland-Weldon).
Rose said there are chinks to work out and it is difficult to assemble such active students in one place at one time, but he’s encouraged by the progress of the panel so far. He gave Wilber, his intern who is majoring in political science and philosophy at EIU, most of the credit.
“I said, ‘You do it, you handle it and I’ll show up wherever you want me to show up,’” Rose said.
Photo submitted to paper.