Students educate themselves on public policy ahead of election

HARRISBURG, IL – Election day is around the corner, and many of you are ready to use your ballot to make major decisions on the issues that are important to you.

A group of high school students in southern Illinois may not be able to vote just yet, but that’s not stopping them from getting involved in government. A youth advisory council is teaching students about the public policy and the importance of their vote.

The students are learning early about the power of their vote. Ashley Detering said she hasn’t always been knowledgeable about government, but now that she’s almost old enough to vote, she wants to make sure she’s informed. “My eyes are open to how much politics do impact me on a personal level, how they are influential in my school and other aspects in my life,” she said.

She said, although many of the students can’t vote yet, they still care about the important issues they believe their representatives should focus on.

“Things such as bullying, school culture, and climate is a really big one going around right now, just the way people feel comfortable in a schools setting right now — these are a lot of things that may be overlooked, because they (politicians) are not in a school setting,” said Detering.

Callie Oxford voted for the first time in the primary this year. She said it made her feel empowered to create change.

“Your duty as an American is to get out and vote. We are given that opportunity, and we need to take that time to do it, because otherwise it can be taken from us very easily,” said Oxford.

The ages of the students in the room vary, but one thing they have in common is knowing when it comes to creating real policy change, it’s not their age that matters — it’s their vote.

“No matter how old I am, I can always make that change. So, I don’t have to wait until I’m 25, or 30, or however old. I can make a change, whether it be a state level, or national level, or even in my own community at school. I can make that change now, and I have a voice,” said Detering.

Change starts with action. In the spring, the students will take a trip to Springfield to continue learning about the legislative process.