By Kaylee Lindenmuth
SCHUYLKILL HAVEN - Students from 15 high schools across Schuylkill and Berks Counties, including Shenandoah Valley, Mahanoy Area, and North Schuylkill, had the opportunity to learn state government and how legislature works first-hand Thursday.
The students were participating in Senator David G. Argall's Senator for a Day event, held this year at Penn State Schuylkill near Schuylkill Haven.
"We allow the students to take on the role of the senator," said Argall. "In the morning, they vote on issues in committee, and then after the (lunch) break, all of them will gather together, and they will decide which bills they're going to vote, and which bills they're going to kill."
Tamaqua Area High School Student Government Advisor Stephen Ulicny has been bringing a contingent of students to the event for years, and says it's a valuable learning experience for students.
"It's a fantastic opportunity for our student leaders to see what it's like to get things done, to do the work," said Ulicny. "The great art of politics is compromise, and they get that experience here, with their peers."
Michael Elchisak, a social studies teacher at Shenandoah Valley, brought a group of students from his government class, as well as students interested in politics. He said SV has participated in the event for the past four years.
"It's a chance for them to go through a legislative process on a more realistic level than they would do in school during a regular class," said Elchisak. "Most of them are very excited about it, because they get to give their opinions and then when they see how the whole process works, I think it becomes more relevant for them."
Darren Krill, a Shenandoah Valley junior from Shenandoah said he loved the event.
"It's a great experience. It's definitely something I'd recommend everybody try out. It's great having to work with other people, get a discussion going, and even helping out with changing the world," said Krill.
During the afternoon session, where students proposed and discussed bills with the full group, Krill participated, asking questions about a Tulpehocken student's bill regarding age limits for social networks.
Thomas Smith, a history teacher at Mahanoy Area, brought a group of students from a government and economics class to help learn about "passing bills, community organizations, community service, how to make a difference," and the legislative process, he said.
One of the students from Mahanoy Area was senior Tyler Clewell, of Mahanoy City.
"I think it's just a good, overall experience to teach high schoolers about how things that happen in their communities get done," Clewell said.
Reagarding the impact of the event, Argall has said that he's received positive feedback from the event, including students approaching him afterwards to learn more or for a job shadowing experience or internship.
"Some students also find it extraordinarily frustrating, and they never want to do it again. That's okay too," said Argall.
At least 100 students attended the event, filling the auditorium in the community center during the general session. For each committee, students were given a set of bills to discuss and amend as necessary before proposing to the full group. Those bills included cuts to extracurricular activities and to restrict registration for social media sites to a certain age. Students were also able to develop their own, which a Fleetwood, Berks County, student did, to require schools hold as many active shooter drills a year as they do fire drills.
NEWS FROM YOUR TOWN
-East Union Township
-North Union Township
-West Mahanoy Township
-Beyond Northern Schuylkill