ISHPEMING - Ishpeming High School students recently learned how the Michigan Legislature runs while debating bills they researched and wrote themselves when they participated in the Michigan Youth in Government program.
Ishpeming sent six students to Lansing to become temporary legislators, along with more than 1,600 other students from more than 150 different schools statewide. The students spent five days in Lansing at the Capitol debating, writing bills and lobbying their positions on current issues that were researched during the school year.
"From the time we wake up we're in committee meetings, we're in full sessions and we have meetings all day long depending on what (section) you're in," said IHS Freshman Cora Bleau, who participated for the first time. "It's really intense and fun."
Ishpeming student Noah Stetson sits at his Senate desk during the Michigan Youth in Government program at the State Capitol in Lansing. (Submitted photo)
Ishpeming Youth In Government students supporting fellow YIG participant Cora Bleau, second from left, in her bid for governor. (Submitted photo)
At Ishpeming Youth in Government is an after school activity that students choose to be apart of each year.
"The main part of (the program) is debating bills that we get to write ourselves," Bleau said. "If we got a bill passed through each the House and Senate and signed by our (youth) governor it actually goes to the real government for a chance to be looked at."
One of these bills was written and worked on by IHS Junior Noah Stetson. The bill he worked on was a bill to repeal the Public Employee Domestic Partner Benefits Restriction Act.
"The bill that I repealed prevents domestic partners of government employees from receiving benefits like health care or other fringe benefits," Stetson said.
In 2011, students drafted their own versions of anti-bullying legislation. In Nov. 2011, Gov. Snyder signed the official anti-bullying legislation into effect and Youth in Government students were invited to attend the signing.
While there the six students either spent time in the Senate or in the House. Bleau and Stetson were in the Senate together.
"We pretty much debated bills and went to committee meetings in the Senate chambers and most of the time we were in the Capitol most of the day," Stetson said.
Bleau not only was in the Senate but had a chance to run for the youth governor. She said the biggest part of this year for her was running for governor.
"I was the U.P. representative and kind of the whole time I was just meeting people and going around (campaigning). I had a lot of help from the others," Bleau said. "It was pretty stressful, but still cool. I went to caucuses and people asked questions about my views on things and I had to give them answers.
"There were three caucuses, one for each district. Then I did a big speech at the end and I lost but it was still pretty fun."
IHS Freshman Lorissa Juntti was one of the students in the House. She said she basically went to meetings for the House and committees every day.
"I got to go to the Capitol for two day. That was really cool, being actually in it," Juntti said. "My bill passed in the House but they didn't get to it in the Senate so it kind of just died there."
This was Bleau's and Juntti's first year participating in Youth in Government. Bleau said her favorite part was the experience as a whole.
"I think it really opens all of us up to a lot of diversity and a lot of interesting beliefs. We live in a small town, so going to something like this, we really realize how small our window views are," Bleau said. "It really helps with a lot of things to look at all of the possibilities."
Juntti said her favorite part was meeting all the different students and hearing their views on the bills being debated.
"I learned a lot," Juntti said. "They taught us parliamentary procedures in debating bills, which I had no clue about how that worked."
The program was open to middle and high school students interested in government. It began in 1948 and involves more than 2,000 students annually.
Adelle Whitefoot can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org