By Robert Pore, Grand Island Independent
Recently, U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., named 3rd District high school students who will serve on his Youth Advisory Council for the 2014-15 academic school year.
Youth Advisory Council members from the Grand Island area are:
— Megan Canfield of Grand Island Northwest High School.
— Hannah Price of Grand Island Senior High.
— Meile Rosenlund of Grand Island Northwest High School.
— Jordan Werth of Elba Public School.
Smith’s Youth Advisory Council is a forum for high school students to share their opinions, thoughts and concerns about local and federal issues with Smith throughout the school year. Through in-person meetings and other contacts, the students will have an opportunity for involvement and insight into their government and communities, according to Smith.
He said the decisions government makes today will have lasting implications for young people.
“The student participants in the council have impressed me with not only their knowledge, but also their passion for solving our nation’s problems and improving our communities,” Smith said.
Werth, a senior at Elba Public School, said he sought to be on Smith’s Youth Advisory Council because he thought it was a great opportunity to learn more about government, along with opening up some career options for him.
He said attending Boys State during the summer got him interested in learning more about how government works.
American Legion Boys State and American Legion Auxiliary Girls State are programs for teaching how government works while developing leadership skills and an appreciation of people’s rights as a citizen.
One of the functions of Smith’s Youth Advisory Council is for the members to be his “eyes and ears” on issues that concern youths in Nebraska’s 3rd Congressional District. There are 21 youths from throughout the district who will serve on the council, meeting about once a month. The discussions will usually focus on issues of concern to young people, such as a recent discussion about job opportunities.
Canfield, a senior at Northwest High School, attended Girls State during the summer. She was part of the youth senate that week.
Both Canfield and Werth said they like to keep up on current events.
“I am not sure that I want to go into politics later in life, but I know I like to keep up on what’s going on,” Canfield said.
She said Smith’s Youth Advisory Council is an opportunity to meet other teens who are interested in how government operates and current affairs. As a member of the council, she said, she feels that “our voices are being heard.”
Canfield said she feels there is not enough focus in school on civics. She said being an informed citizen is important for the survival of a democracy.
Rosenlund, also a Northwest High School senior, said she also attended Girls State during the summer.
She said she was not aware of Smith’s Youth Advisory Council until after she attended Girls State and was encouraged to apply for the council. She said Girls State opened her eyes to how government works.
“My parents wanted me to get more involved communitywise,” Rosenlund said. “I thought this would be something interesting.
“What I want to accomplish being on this council is letting Nebraska youths know that their voices are being heard.”
She said in a recent Youth Advisory Council meeting, they talked about how expensive it is to attend college and how to address the high cost of tuition.
“It is really expensive to attend college, but you can’t get a good job if you don’t have a college education,” Rosenlund said.
She said discussions during her school government classes give her the chance to get input from fellow students on issues to be discussed at the Youth Advisory Council meetings.
Rosenlund also believes that youths have a stake in being more informed and active in the governmental process.
“It is really important because we are the people who are going to vote,” she said. “My mom always said how important it is to vote and be involved, but I never really realized how important it was. It is dangerous to be uninformed about what you are voting about.”
Price, a senior at Grand Island Senior High School, said she joined the advisory council to further her understanding of governmental systems and broaden her knowledge of political issues.
“I feel strongly that as citizens we are responsible for educating ourselves on political issues to make informed decisions for our government and country,” she said. “I felt this committee would give me a hands-on opportunity to learn more about our government system and to also further my understanding of political issues facing our country.”
Price said she feels this committee will help her understand how government is structured.
“I believe that being able to discuss issues with Congressman Adrian Smith is an excellent opportunity to view issues through different perspectives and to broaden my own political views and opinions,” she said. “I also feel the committee will help hold me personally responsible to remain educated on the issues facing Nebraska and our country.”
Price said she feels that it is very important for today’s young people to get involved in the political/civic realm.
“We are the future of this country, which means our roles are vital to our country’s direction and stability,” she said. “It is important to educate ourselves on issues that will impact our futures.”
The council is open to high school juniors and seniors who are selected through an application process in the spring. For more information, interested teens are encouraged to contact Smith’s Grand Island office at (308) 384-3900 or visit his website at: http://adriansmith.house.gov/