One of the most fundamental lessons a student should learn is how their government works.
With youth voter turnout at record lows and the general lack of student civic knowledge becoming fodder for late night comedians, it is imperative that students across the state have equitable access to the programs that provide the opportunity to gain a hands-on knowledge of how their government works.
For years North Carolina has been blessed with comprehensive programs allowing students to interact with their elected officials and even have the opportunity to act as the legislator themselves in civic simulation.
Unfortunately, the General Assembly has proposed a continuation of the radical and regressive policies that have made up far too much of this year’s legislative session.
As the Associated Press has reported, under a proposed provision of the budget from the North Carolina Senate, the office within the Department of Administration that oversees many programs designed to institute youth civic and political leadership, such as the State Government Internship Program and the Youth Legislative Assembly, would be defunded.
This sort of youth civic engagement programs have been bringing a diverse array of students to the state capitol for over 40 years to gain hands-on experience in civic life, including a number of the legislators who now serve as elected officials in the General Assembly.
As someone whose interest in politics was sparked in high school while participating in similar youth and civic leadership programs in Raleigh when I was only 15, it is incredibly disappointing to see my representatives considering cutting such important educational programs.
While I was watching history being made in the 2008 election cycle, gaining hands-on legislative experience at only 15 was one of the most valuable opportunities of my high school career. The experience also cemented in me a level of interest in and engagement with the civic process that I carry with me to this day.
I hope the General Assembly will allow today’s students to experience the same sort of youth civic leadership I was afforded.
Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders. Let’s invest in them.