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LANSING, MI -- During the month of March, the Michigan State Capitol hosted over 100 high school students for a four-day pre-college program exposing them to educational and career opportunities within the state government.

On March 20-23, 2016, these teens were invited to truly experience the various legislative processes through the 4-H Capitol Experience program. The activities were held in Lansing and involved a number of professionals who work at the capitol with different aspects of the government. The students met with a spokesperson from the state executive agency, a lobbyist, a legislative aide, and representatives from community agencies.

The teens were involved in a nine-hour Michigan Legislative Simulation over the four days. Within the simulation experience, they were given an issue group with the intention of representing it. The attendees then participated by researching and proposing Senate and House bills, conducting leadership position elections, attending legislative committee meetings, debating and voting on their bills and completing the cycle by having their bills signed into law by an acting governor. Beyond the simulation experience, the students spent time with elected officials, observed sessions of both the House and Senate, and visited community and state agencies, lobbyists, and legislative aides.

The hands-on activities during the program not only expose the young people to state government but it brings to life the concepts the students are learning in the classrooms. The various activities of the 4-H Capitol Experience are based on several of the concepts introduced into the schools through the Michigan State Content Expectations for Social Studies Education. These include the structure and functions of state and local government, responsibilities as a citizen of the United States, and participating in civic life, along with others.

The students were active participants throughout the conference with positive attitudes, a willingness to learn, and a standard to keep as they were reminded that they were representing their county and the 4-H program. The organizers of the program intended that the young people would leave the program with a better understanding of how public policy works, realize different career opportunities, increase communication skills, and the ability to meet and make new friends with people from different cultures and places.

The young people ranged from ninth through twelfth grades. The Farm Bureau offers scholarships to help every student who would like to attend.

“The 4-H Capitol Experience has been in existence for over 30 years,” Makena Schultz said. She is the Leadership and Civic Engagement Educator for the MSU Extension Children and Youth Institute. “We as the Capitol Experience team would like to hear if there have been long-term impacts for the attendees.” As a result, they are requesting anyone who has attended the program in the past to contact Schultz at schul430@anr.msu.edu and share their current contact information and the year they participated. There is also a Facebook page located at www.facebook.com/groups/CapExpALL for former attendees to join.

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