By Pete Rosenbery
CARBONDALE – Illinois high school students will have the chance next month to learn more about politics and community service during the 12th annual Youth Government Day, sponsored by Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.
Approximately 200 high school students from across the state attended last year’s event at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. The year’s event is from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., March 31. Optional independent tours of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum will be from 2:30 to 5 p.m.
The event features young political leaders who speak to students and discuss how they can have a positive impact on their community and on the political process. The late Institute founder and U.S. Sen. Paul Simon started Youth Government Day to acquaint Illinois high school students with state government and politics.
The featured speakers include Cody Hendricks, a freshman at Eureka College and member of the Pekin City Council, and Winston Taylor, a Democratic candidate for the 96th Illinois House District seat.
Hendricks will present “You’re Not Too Young,” during the morning session. Hendricks became the youngest person elected to the Pekin City Council in April 2011 while an 18-year-old senior at Pekin Community High School. He is majoring in political science and history, and secondary education. His began his involvement with the Institute through his participation in the Youth Government Day program.
Taylor, a one-time state legislative liaison for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, will present “Follow Your Passion,” during the afternoon session. Taylor, who lives in Springfield, left his job to campaign for the office. Taylor grew up in Decatur and graduated from Mount Zion High School, playing football at the University of Illinois, and also in NFL Europe for the Miami Dolphins’ organization.
“Our Youth Government Day program is one way we hope to inspire high school students to think about careers in politics and public service,” said David Yepsen, Institute director. “Illinois needs to attract new people and fresh energy into public service. This is one way we can help do that.
A recent study that shows Illinois ranks as the third most corrupt state in the nation, trailing only New York and California, makes it important for the state’s youth to begin thinking about public service, Yepsen said.
“All these stories about high levels of public corruption in Illinois can discourage people from entering public life. We need to get our best and brightest thinking about getting into it to make Illinois better,” he said.
Youth Government Day is free to Illinois high school students and their teachers or chaperones. Registration is limited, and available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Organizers prefer that students should sign up through a school group and chaperone, but they will take student sign-ups directly if the school is not participating. Registration is required by March 23.
For more information or to sign up, contact Institute project coordinator Carol Greenlee at 618/453-4078 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information is also available at paulsimoninstitute.org/.