Government and laws are not just for adults; youth have a voice in creating ideas for legislation

High school students in Michigan have the opportunity for hands-on learning about state government by attending 4-H Capitol Experience.

young lady in a field sitting on a white chair in a mauve dress
Steering committee member Dori B. Photo by Michelle Cook Photography

What mental health services are available in Michigan for teens? What is the impact of social media on the mental health of teens? Why is the percentage of Michigan teenagers in the workforce declining significantly? How should we align government services to address the opioid epidemic? What issues are important to schools and the students attending them? How do we talk with teens about healthy relationships and help them to identify teen dating violence and signs of abuse?   

These are just a few options teens can explore at Michigan State University Extension’s 4-H Capitol Experience, a three-day conference that focuses on civic engagement and public policy. High school teens from around the state will converge in Lansing, Michigan, on March 17-19, to experience Michigan government in action.

While at 4-H Capitol Experience, participants will work with a group of peers to select a public policy issue and interact with state legislators, various state agency staff, lobbyists and other experts to learn more about their chosen issue topic. Through these interactions, participants will explore careers in public policy, network with teens and professionals from around Michigan, and learn about the policy process at the state level and how that affects their individual communities.

4-H Capitol Experience is open to all high school-aged youth who are interested in citizenship and how they can make a difference by utilizing their voice. Participants have the opportunity to learn about their local community before the conference by carrying out suggested pre-conference activities, such as working with local government and school boards. 

4-H Capitol Experience provides an opportunity for youth to engage in genuine and meaningful roles with peers and policymakers. Giving teens the opportunity to voice their ideas, develop their own bills, present their bills to policymakers and other stakeholders, and participate in every stage of the legislative process is a valuable lesson in civic engagement.

Dori B., a 4-H member and current steering committee member, shares her experience.

“I’ve been involved in 4-H Capitol Experience both as an attendee and as a member of the youth steering committee. Because of 4-H Capitol Experience, I’ve gained an understanding of how our local and state government works and how I can have an impact within it, even as a teenager.  The program has also grown my confidence in leadership by immersing me in experiences with legislators, having the opportunity to speak with them to share my thoughts and learn from them.”

Teens interested in experiencing government in action and being part of a hands-on, experiential learning conference can contact their local MSU Extension office to learn more about the experience or visit the 4-H Capitol Experience website to register.

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