Kansas teens get inside look at Capitol
A government conference for teens attracted youth ages 13 to 18 from across Kansas to Topeka, the state capital, Feb. 17 to 18.
"Citizenship in Action," organized by Kansas 4-H, strives to teach youth leadership, citizenship, and community service, said Sarah Keatley, Kansas 4-H events coordinator.
Keatley credits the Kansas 4-H Youth Council with taking responsibility for planning the gathering.
Youth council event co-chair Katie Connor, a high school senior from Lenexa, Kan., believes "youth can make a difference."
"We can read about government, go to class, and talk about what other people do--or don't do-but it's not the same as being in Topeka, discussing the issues with your peers, and presenting potential legislation at the capitol," said Connor. She credits her experiences at previous Citizenship in Action conferences and 4-H with helping her to become a more capable young adult able to serve in a leadership capacity to create opportunities to others.
Connor, whose fondness for family pets inspired her initial interest in 4-H, is sharing leadership responsibilities for the conference with Leah Kimzey, from Fredonia, Kan., who is a freshman at Kansas State University.
Kimzey is serving on the youth council's conference planning committee for the second time.
As conference co-chairs, they worked with nearly 30 Kansas 4-H Youth Council members to identify key issues and research three topics of interest to teens:
--Modifications to recent changes in school lunches;
--Safety in schools; and
--Resolving hunger in the state, with possible mandatory participation from farmers.
The 4-H delegates gathered at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Topeka to discuss one of the issues and potential legislation to resolve it.
After caucusing, teens gathered for an evening meal with motivational speaker, Nick Levendofsky, from Republic, Kan.
4-H delegates traveled to the Capitol, took their seats in the House or Senate Chambers, and took their turn stumping for their issue and proposed legislation during the mock political session.
"Access to the House Chamber is a privilege," said Kimzey, who explained that teens can approach it cautiously, but typically leave much more aware of the democratic process.