April 20, 2022 – Collinsville High School juniors Tyrone Ealy and Jack Geisen, and sophomores Jack O’Hara and Elliott Schusky joined students from 17 other high schools throughout the 54th Illinois State Senate District as part of State Senator Jason Plummer’s Youth Advisory Council. The group convened in Springfield at the Illinois State Capitol on Wednesday, April 20, 2022.
Earlier this school year, the Youth Advisory Council crafted a bill to create “mental health buddies” in Illinois schools. The proposed bill was written and debated by the students. Their visit to the state capitol marked the next step in learning about the legislative process. While the proposed bill was not an actual piece of legislation to be considered by the Illinois General Assembly, the process closely simulated the real legislative process.
Synopsis of the 2021-22 Youth Advisory Council mock bill as introduced:
Creates the High School External Mental Health Program Act. It is the intent of this legislation to improve the mental health for high school and junior high students within the state. The goal of this legislation is to take a pro-active approach to focus on the future instead of dealing with the now. This will be done by the creation of buddy systems for students with an outside entity. This bill would create a designated time each day for the students to meet with their buddy to have a session. This bill would go into effect for the 2023/2024 school year.
The students toured the capitol building, spent time on the Illinois Senate floor and engaged in dialogue with State Senator Plummer and several members of his legislative staff. In addition, the Youth Advisory Council heard from other legislators, lobbyists and media members who are involved in the legislative process on a daily basis.
To conclude the day, students were assigned roles including Governor, State Senator, lobbyist and media member for a role-playing exercise to debate and vote on the bill in a mock committee hearing in a capitol hearing room.
Sophomore Elliott Schusky said, “It really gave me a first-hand view of what the real legislative process is like; while I learned in class how a bill becomes a law, this day opened my eyes to how complex the path to enacting a law really is, and we got to learn about it from the people who are really doing this in their professional lives of public service every day.”