By Hannah Gross
Politics is something many people want to stay out of, but if we want to be “in the know” of our government and its decisions, we have to educate ourselves with the political system.
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend TeenPact Wyoming, which taught me just that. TeenPactis a leadership school available in almost every state, with the goal of teaching the homeschooled youth of America the importance of getting involved with politics, even at a young age, and how to keep Christ at the center of it all.Every TeenPactclass is held in the capital of its state and takes place during the legislative session so that students can see their government in action.
My time at TeenPact was incredible, and I can’t wait to go again next year. While each class may vary a little bit from state to state, I wanted to share my experience at TeenPact Wyoming.
It started before I even arrived. Before the four-day class held Feb. 19-22, I had to complete the assigned homework, which included writing letters to my senator and representative; giving an analysis of the U.S.Constitution, a bill of my choice and the most recent state-of-the-state address; completing a vocabulary list; and filling out a state political fact sheet, in which all the information had to be memorized, along with a few Bible verses (1 Timothy 2:1-3 and Romans 13:1-2). Writing a mock bill was another activity that I had to complete, and it was a lot of work, but it gave me a better understanding of what I would be learning at my week of TeenPact and helped me to retain more of what I learned.
So, with homework completed, I set out to begin my political endeavor.
Everything was set up to give the students a virtual experience of the political realm, complete from abiding by the proper dress code of suits and skirts to having the opportunity to run for office in the mock election.
I also had the chance to hear and learn from several speakers, including staffers, who presented classes such as Politics 101, Rep. Winters, Supreme Court Justice Keith Kautz and even Gov. Matt Mead.
At the end of each day, quizzes were presented about the various topics discussed by the speakers. I actually found them to be fun, and they reinforced everything that I had learned that day.
However, I didn’t go to Cheyenne just to hear a lot of speeches and take quizzes. In addition to the guest appearances, the week was packed with fun, creative activities that taught the different aspects of government. First, the staffers presented a bill skit in which they explained how a bill becomes a law, and later throughout the week, they gave us the chance to practice “signing” our bills into law.
Each person was assigned to a committee, and within that committee, bills were either passed or they failed. If the bill made it through committee, it was brought before all the TeenPact students so that everyone could express their opinion either for or against a particular bill. Everything was done according to parliamentary procedure, and students had to address the clerk, the chairman and the “gentlemen in the well” in the correct parliamentarian terms.
It really helped me to understand the “language” of politics and how the legislative process works, not to mention that it was a lot of fun too.
The field experiences were also fun, “hands-on” activities. These experiences included trips to the Jonah Building, which is serving as the Capitol while the actual Capitol building is being remodeled; the governor’s historic mansion; and the Wyoming Supreme Court. Whichever building the staffers took us to, that was the branch of government we learned about.
The lobbyist field experience at the Jonah Building was probably my favorite. It required stepping out of my comfort zone, but it was definitely worth it. Instead of having the staffers stand there and explain to us what a lobbyist does, they let us figure it out on our own. They split us up into pairs, and we had to interview the lobbyists to find out what they do.