Over the next few weeks we will be highlighting the award winners for our Strengthening Democracy Awards on April 24th at the International Quilt Studies Museum in Lincoln. You can buy tickets here.
What began as a project to bring a group of high school students to the capitol for a hands-on learning experience, ended up with a complete commitment to civic engagement. This civics club ended up with the creation of legislation that was introduced in the Nebraska Legislature on making elections more accessible for high school students.
During their Capitol Experience trip, the South High students observed the legislative process, learned from key players, and took part in their own mock committee hearings that allowed them to grasp the impact they could have. But they did not stop there. They realized the need for voter preregistration for 16 and 17 year olds. The class met with bill drafters and created this bill and then with community leaders to get their support. They met with Senator Amanda McGill and her staff multiple times until she was ready to introduce their bill, LB127 in January 2013.
With the support and encouragement from teacher Melissa Peterson and administrator Matt Curtis, the students continued their commitment to this bill by testifying at the committee hearing. After three students testified, members of the community commented that they were even better than many professional lobbyists. The class then sat down with a key swing senator from Omaha to try and convince him to vote and get LB127 out of committee.
Although this bill did not make it out of committee, this class took a need in the community and followed this idea all the way into the hearing room. Because of their commitment to bettering voting turnout for young adults and for their understanding of the legislative process, this class from South High is deserving of the Outstanding Youth Engagement Program award.