2018 Capitol Experience: Youth leaders on the front line of public policy

Michigan youth learn about the importance of their voice in state government

June 8, 2018 - Author: Jackelyn Martin, Michigan State University Extension

4-H Capitol Experience took place in Okemos and Lansing, Michigan, April 15-18, 2018, and included 68 youth from 25 counties across Michigan. This important event has been occurring annually for over 30 years.

At 4-H Capitol Experience, we aim to help youth recognize the power of their voices in their communities and in public policy while increasing participants’ understanding of state government. Participants chose from one of eight issue groups on topics ranging from agriculture to law enforcement. These issue groups function similarly to state committees and create a space for program participants to delve deeply into one specific topic of concern for the state of Michigan, drafting mock legislation relevant to their issue. From there, youth work in small groups and visit lobbyists, state/local agencies and legislators who have a vested interest in that topic. In addition, youth toured the Michigan Supreme Court, the State Capitol Building and observed the Michigan Senate and many committees in session.

Capitol Experience alum Stephen Rajzer, turned legislative assistant for U.S. Representative Tim Walberg’s office, served as mock governor for the event. He signed or vetoed bills passed by the event’s mock house and Senate.

New in 2018, participants interacted with elected officials and special guests during a legislative reception instead of a formal breakfast. This informal event included a short program with ample time for youth to ask questions of policy-makers in a casual setting. Likewise, elected officials and others who may not regularly have an opportunity to interact with youth appreciated the opportunity to hear the dreams and aspirations of the next generation and impart their words of wisdom.

Youth attending the event said, “[Capitol Experience] has increased my teamwork skills and confidence.” “It has expanded my horizons by giving me an opportunity to learn something I knew nothing about.” “It has given me an even greater appreciation for the way our government is run, [and] an idea of how I can share ideas with representatives and help with state issues.”

Youth also came away from the event with insight into future careers, saying, “Capitol Experience has opened my eyes to careers in government that don’t require being elected into office.” “I now have been looking to possibly run for senator or representative.” “[Capitol Experience] encouraged me to have a career that makes a difference.”

For more information on 4-H Capitol Experience, visit the 4-H Capitol Experience website. Additional information on MSU Extension youth leadership and civic engagement programs are also available at MSU Extension’s Leadership, Citizenship and Service website. To see the kind of impact these types of programs have on youth, we highly encourage you to look at MSU Extension’s “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.”

Tags: 4-h, 4-h capitol experience, 4-h citizenship & service, 4-h leadership education, citizenship & service, global & cultural education, leadership, msu extension

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