Are youth equipped to make real change in policy?

Educational experiences like 4-H Capitol Experience improve youth civic engagement.

Past participants of the 4-H Capitol Experience in Lansing, Michigan. Photo by MSU Extension.
Past participants of the 4-H Capitol Experience in Lansing, Michigan. Photo by MSU Extension.

Across the nation, youth are finding their voice in change-making and expressing it across a variety of platforms. Fed up with what they perceive as ineffective policy-making, youth are using their voices to make change. From walkouts to protests to editorials, youth are making their voices heard.

But are youth equipped with the knowledge needed to make a difference in politics and government? The answer may vary depending on the youth you ask, their experiences and the quality of their government and civics education in high school. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, “Students who recall having received better civic education are more likely to be engaged.”

At least one youth feels under-prepared for participation in government. Despite attempts in her high school government class, Mackenzie Hubbard used her voice to write an editorial in the Ludington Daily News on her lack of understanding of government. Is Hubbard’s experience an anomaly? Or does it point to a broader problem? Are there better ways to engage youth in civic education and find their voice to be effective change-makers?

4-H Capitol Experience is a pre-college program that takes youth out of the classroom, providing a hands-on experiential opportunity to learn more about state government in Michigan. The four-day program held annually in Lansing, Michigan, engages high school youth throughout the state in exploring the process of making public policy. Youth who participate in this program learn about our state’s public policy through multiple experiences including mock bill writing, committee meetings, and house and senate “votes,” as well as visits with legislative aides, lobbyists, and state and community agencies.

Consider inviting a youth you know to attend 4-H Capitol Experience April 15-18, 2018, equipping them with confidence and knowledge to make a difference. The event is $350 for Michigan 4-H members and $370 for all other youth. For more information on 4-H Capitol Experience, please visit the 4-H Capitol Experience website. Online registration for the 2018 4-H Capitol Experience is open until March 16, 2018.

Any questions on this program can be directed to Jackie Martin at or 734-222-3877.

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