Editorial Note: Editor-in-Chief Charlie Recchia, Sports Editor Evan Sharrard, and Art Editor Sarah Keck are in Youth & Government. They were not involved in the reporting, writing, or editing of this article.
Youth and Government is a club here at Oswego High School for students who are interested in the government and politics. It teaches them all about how the Illinois State Government works, with a lot of hands-on activities. It is a big simulation of the Illinois General Assembly, how it runs, and what it does.
Many different schools participate and work together to get bills published and made into laws. This is also a way to go out and make friends outside of the school and get to know other people. The people that are there are all interested in politics.
To get their bill passed, they go on field trips to other schools and work with their Youth and Government clubs to do simulations on the different steps to get the bill theoretically published.
Throughout the year in Youth and Government, every group’s bill goes to Pre-legislative Assembly 1. During Pre/leg 1, which is a mini simulation of the simulation in Springfield, the bill gets revised by other schools, and then the students can change their bill to get it ready to go to the next step, Pre/leg 2.
Pre/leg 2 is another mini simulation of the one in Springfield. This is another way for the students to get prepared for Springfield and get more revisions for their bill.
Before they go to Springfield, every bill group has its meeting with both advisers, Mrs. Brenda Shay and Mr. Aaron Henricks, to make sure that the group has made all their revisions for their bill. They make sure that they are confident in arguing their bill, and that they are all around ready to be successful in Springfield.
Once the bills are made, they then go to Springfield and get to do the primary simulation that the club has been working towards all year.
They go down in early February or mid-March and simulate what the Illinois General Assembly would do.
Kids from all the different schools get to run for positions in office and get real-life roles that representatives have.
“ I knew the teacher would foster my love for democracy,” Legislator and junior Erik Neidlein said.
All students are given a different role in the legislative branch, either in the Illinois House or Senate. Some will be lawyers and argue appellate law in the Supreme Court. Appellate law is the law and lawyers that argue and try to correct wrongs and explain laws that need interpretation. Some students will become lobbyists and try to support or kill legislation for the group they are lobbying for.
“It is a simulation, so nothing is binding, but it’s about as realistic of a simulation as you can get,” Social Studies teacher and Youth and Government Adviser Mr. Aaron Henricks said.
At the beginning of the year, all the members are put into groups of three to four other students who have similar political views or are on the same side of the political spectrum. They then choose an issue that’s important to them that could be handled at the state level.
“Because it is a State government simulation, it has to be something the Illinois General Assembly could handle,” Mr. Henricks said.
The students then have to write the bill and research its key components. They have to decide what they are trying to do with their bill and what the proposed law is. For example, if the bill is going to require money, they need to find out where the money would come from. If the law is not followed, they need to figure out what the punishment would be; they also have to think about when the bill would take effect and if it is a reasonable and realistic time.
The students will then write a bill brief, which is like a mini persuasive document saying that the bill is not made up and research to prove it is useful.
Mrs. Shay, social studies teacher and head adviser of Youth and Government, was handed the club her third year teaching here at OHS. The former adviser retired, and there was no one there to take the club, so it was going to be shut down.
“I was hesitant at first. My kids were young, and it involves overnight travel once a year, and I was worried if I could make it all work,” Mrs. Shay said.
Mrs. Shay wanted the club to exist still, so she stepped up and became Head Adviser of the club. This is because she believes in democracy and wants to teach those who are eager to learn about it.
“ was the best decision I made in my life,” Shay said.
An unofficial expectation of becoming a teacher is doing more than showing up and teaching, so that means being an adviser for clubs or sports. A lot of teachers are hired to be coaches at OHS, so for the teachers that were not hired to be coaches, it can be a little hard to find a club or activity to sponsor. This can be especially difficult being a new teacher still trying to get used to grading and lesson planning.
Mrs. Shay got Youth and Government to be a pretty big club, and she could no longer take them down to Springfield by herself, so she asked Mr. Henricks if he would go along and help chaperone the trip. He agreed, and for his first year, Henricks only helped out for the three important meetings.
“I enjoyed it more than I was expecting, too; it was cool to see what the kids were doing,” he said.
His second year, he said he would be a full-time adviser, and he is now going into his ninth year of being one.
“The kids are going through the real process and are doing all of this in the real rooms and building that the Illinois State Government functions in,” Mr. Henricks said.
The whole weekend while in Springfield, everyone is always on call, and there is still something to do.
“ more time, I wish we could go out to a real political event, town halls, and get the kids more involved with actual representatives,” Mrs. Shay said.
Because there is so much preparation for Springfield, there isn’t much time to do other activities, so Mrs. Shay would like to try to make more time in the club to get the kids involved in real politics, get time with representatives, and relate everything they are doing.