4-H Capitol Experience wraps up in Lansing

Youth experience mock legislative session at 4-H Capitol Experience in Lansing, Michigan.

4-H Capitol Experience participants working in issue groups
4-H Capitol Experience participants work in issue groups to brainstorm bill topics. Photo by MSU Extension.

Sixty-two high school youth hailing from 27 Michigan counties participated in 4-H Capitol Experience March 17-20, 2019. Led by a 10-person youth steering committee, participants selected one of eight issue groups to focus their discussion throughout the week. Issue group topics included agriculture, civil rights, education, environment and natural resources, health, jobs and the economy, law enforcement and technology. Working within their issue groups, each group brainstormed and developed a bill related to their assigned issue group topics.

Transforming the Okemos Conference Center to a mock state capitol building, youth work their bills through the entire legislative process. The legislative simulation involved brainstorming a bill topic, presenting and refining the bill through a committee meeting, bringing the bill to a house or senate floor debate and, finally, a vote in their respective chamber. Any bills that were passed by the house or senate were then brought to the other chamber for a vote. The experience was capped off with an honorary governor, in this case Stephen Rajzer from Representative Tim Walberg’s office, who discussed the merits or challenges with each bill and either signed or vetoed them.

This year, only two of the eight original bills passed both the mock house and senate. Both bills focused on mental health resources for youth. The health issue group proposed a bill requiring Youth Mental Health First Aid training for K-12 educators, and the education group proposed a bill that would secure additional personnel to assist with mental health counseling in schools.  

Participants working in groups
Photo by MSU Extension

While the primary goal of 4-H Capitol Experience is to provide a safe space to experientially learn about state government processes, the event can also serve to highlight important issues to youth in Michigan. Staff noted that while youth presented many important ideas in the form of bills throughout the week, expansion of mental health resources seemed to be particularly important to youth in attendance.

In addition to the mock legislative simulation, participants spend their days at the capitol meeting with legislators, legislative aides, lobbyists and community agencies that work in their issue group topic area. Participants sit in on real committees in session, tour the capitol and supreme court buildings, and interact with their legislators during a networking reception.  

The dates for the 2020 event will be set soon. Visit the 4-H Capitol Experience website for updates and information.

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