This past April, the Ohio Statehouse was host to the 65th Ohio Youth Leadership Association (YLA) Youth in Government Conference. As a co-chair of the program’s committee, I was incredibly excited that a large group of high school students from my district, Pike County specifically, was participating this year.

The Ohio YLA Youth in Government program holds a three-day conference in our state’s capital to provide motivated teenagers with the hands-on, real-world experience of learning about state government. Students take on the roles of state legislators, Supreme Court justices, and even lobbyists to gain a better understanding of the inner workings of creating and upholding the law. The program truly establishes a unique opportunity for students to take what they have learned in textbooks and apply it to various scenarios related to government.

My favorite part of the conference is undoubtedly the simulations of House and Senate committees and session. It’s enlightening to watch students learn how to do what I do every day in my job as a state representative. Many people don’t understand the complexity of committee hearings and the research and collaboration that is required to create, discuss, and amend legislation. The mock committees are a great way for high schoolers to learn important life skills like teamwork and compromise, which they will surely apply to other aspects of their lives.

From committees to session, these teenagers get to experience the in-depth process of passing legislation. While the bill a person sponsors may seem like a great idea to that representative or senator, there will sometimes be others who disagree. However, these differences of opinion can lead to a greater and more well-rounded discussion, often resulting in a better and more comprehensive piece of legislation. Through this process, the participating students learn about tolerance and the diversity of opinions and how to enact legislation for the betterment of the state.

There are many similar programs in the state that strive for the same goals, providing a fun and educational introduction to government for our youth. The Ohio YLA, and its Youth in Government program in particular, has a mission that I wholeheartedly support—to help youth reach their full potential. In striving for this mission, the organization seeks to help youth develop leadership and citizenship skills that they can carry with them throughout their lifetime. Our next generation of leaders can learn about the importance of civic duty and commitment to their community. With the impact of the program reaching all the way to Pike County this year, the success of the conference throughout the state is evident.

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