During the 2008 presidential election, the political process was reinvigorated not only by the landmark circumstances and the appealing promises of change, but also by the surge of young people who took an active interest in what was going on in the world around them.
Young voters and high school students voiced their concerns for society and desires for the future, and they volunteered for campaigns. They expressed a wanting to be involved not only in the process of change, but also in its aftermath and effects.
The young people of America silenced the "careless and lazy" stereotype surrounding them by voicing their opinions and, if they were old enough, voting in unprecedented numbers.
The voice of America’s young people is not only heard in national matters swirling around Washington, it can be heard in Pennsylvania, too.
The annual Senator for a Day event is just one example where teens are getting involved in issues facing the state. Held at the state Capitol, Senator for a Day invites high school students statewide to play the role of senator for a day.
Students are assigned to committees where they work together with other committee members and debate proposed bills.
The committees then meet in a general session where all the student senators vote on the discussed bills.
Throughout the meetings, students express their opinions on issues dealing with education, health care, technology, criminal activity and transportation.
Students interact with actual senatorial staff and have the opportunity to meet the senator serving their district.
Although the activities of Senator for a Day have no influence over actual legislation, the event provides a forum for students to express their opinions and thoughts on Pennsylvania politics while letting them experience the inner workings of law-making.
The bills given to the students mirror actual legislation that has been passed by or is awaiting approval from the state Senate.
The proposals relate to a variety of issues, from requiring DNA sampling of convicted felons to updating graduation requirements for all Pennsylvania students.
Senator for a Day encourages students to pay attention to what’s happening in the Capitol and how the decisions made there will affect them.
I had the opportunity to attend a Senator for a Day event and experience the process firsthand. As part of the communication and technology committee, I interacted with other students as we discussed two bills.
The first one concerned employer’s rights to monitor employee e-mails.
The second proposed an age requirement for those opening a Facebook account.
Throughout the debates, I was impressed by my fellow peers and their actions. The teens participating in Senator for a Day were a contradiction to the stereotype that has been placed upon them.
Teenagers are portrayed as MTV-obsessed, cell-phone addicted, oblivious and arrogant young citizens. However, the teens I interacted with were concerned, motivated and bright.
Senator for a Day is just one encouraging sign that Pennsylvania teens aren’t just worried about where the next party is or who is dating whom.
Contrary to popular belief and media portrayal, the teens of America are young intellectuals who are increasingly becoming involved in the world they live in. They are turning off televisions, putting down cell phones and raising their voices in issues that affect their society. They are getting involved.
A year later, we are continuing to carry the torch of concern, activity and opinion that was ignited in last year’s election.
By Hope Frick, senior at Commonwealth Connections Academy