Youth Congress prepares DCSD students to lead state
DENVER – A group of Douglas County teens looked at home underneath the dome of the state capitol, debating serious issues including hydraulic fracturing, known as “fracking” and school funding. While they’re not state legislators yet, current-day leaders say it won’t be long before the students, representing all nine high schools in Douglas County, are leading the state.
The sixth annual Douglas County Youth Congress, held on September 16, connected students with issues impacting Colorado right now. Youth Congress is a great step towards a career in public service for the high school students. In addition to meeting a variety of state and county elected officials, they get a taste of what it is like to govern.
“I fully expect to see some of these kids become school board members in 10 to 15 years,” said Douglas County Board of Education Vice President Kevin Larsen, who was among dozens of elected officials who volunteered the day-long event. “Eventually some [of the students] will become legislators. We may even have a governor sitting in this audience today.”
“It’s very valuable experience that these kids can have to know, how does the process work; it’s not just magically done,” Larsen said. “They have to understand sweat and tears and deliberation goes into considering what are the best laws or policies that come out of a session, and they have to consider what consequences are too.”
Deep in the basement of the capitol, the students get down to work. Just like any big policy decision at the legislature, it begins with small discussions. The students focus on topics that matter to them, deciding the pros and cons of each issue and then what side they support.
“When they take all that into consideration they’ll get to actually feel what it’s like to make a choice and have the burdens of impacts on people you’re representing and I think that’s a great lesson for them to learn,” Larsen said.
Then, just like lawmakers, the students stand before their peers and make an argument supporting their viewpoint. Each and every student has the chance to find their voice, as well as their role in our democracy.
“I think what these kids are learning is that there are some responsibilities to citizenship,” explained Douglas County Clerk and Recorder Jack Arrowsmith. “If they want things to change or improve or continue to be good, they have a responsibility to be part of that process.”
While it might seem daunting to face the people that will one day take over the Capitol, today’s leaders say they aren’t intimidated. They’re excited to see the next generation take the first steps towards leadership and enjoy supporting that effort.
“It absolutely energizes me. I go back from these sessions feeling great,” Arrowsmith said.