Wisconsin teens discussed policies, political careers and the legislative process with state legislators and UW-Extension educators June 27 during the Wisconsin 4-H & Youth Conference in Madison. This legislative workshop included a mock hearing to demystify the process for citizen input about legislation.
“It gives the young people a chance to testify in front of legislators,” said Matt Calvert, a UW-Extension 4-H Youth Development specialist. “When they return to their communities, they are then more likely to share their perspectives with their school boards, city councils and county boards.”
Calvert and Rosemary Potter, UW-Extension and UW Colleges government relations director, introduced the participants to Rep. Steve Kestell, 27th Assembly District; Rep. Amy Sue Vruwink, 70th Assembly District; Rep. Chris Taylor, 48th Assembly District; and Brandon VerVelde from the office of Rep. Evan Wynn, 43rd Assembly District. Kestell and Vruwink shared their 4-H experiences, Vruwink as a 4-H member, junior leader and club ambassador. Kestell, a former 4-H member and project leader, said he was impressed that 33 teens chose to spend the morning at the State Capitol. The conference provided dozens of options such as sailing, canoeing and windsurfing for the 700 participants in grades 7 to 10.
Youth in the legislative workshop presented ideas to legislators to close the brain drain from Wisconsin communities. To attract and retain young people, they suggested steps such as: increasing apprenticeships and scholarships, supporting dual enrollment in high school and college courses, building a pipeline for rural startup companies, increasing grants for entrepreneurs and creating science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs in rural areas. The young testifiers also addressed ways to build a workforce with 21st century skills. They asked the legislators to enrich the K-12 STEM curriculum to include more applied science, fund vocational and arts programs to ensure a well-rounded education and support leadership development opportunities such as through 4-H.
UW-Extension manages 4-H in Wisconsin and coordinates the state conference. For information about the conference, visit: http://4h.uwex.edu/events/youthconf/, and for information about Youth in Governance, visit: http://4h.uwex.edu/yig/index.cfm