Making a difference in state government can often feel impossible — especially when you’re not old enough to run for office or vote or, in some cases, even have a driver’s license.
But a group of 16 Cody homeschooled students returned from a recent trip to the state capitol with the reminder that their voices have the power to influence state lawmakers.
“I think it was cool to see how accessible our legislators are, and how much of an impact we can have on them,” freshman Sadie Wachob said. “I hadn’t really realized how possible it is to connect with them and make a difference in what they’re thinking on these important issues.”
Wachob and her fellow students traveled to Cheyenne during the week of Feb. 27 to participate in TeenPact Leadership School. TeenPact is a program where students learn about state government from a Christian world-view.
Students ran for office, participated in a mock legislature and learned how they can be effective leaders in their communities.
Terri Bray, one of the parents who accompanied students, said TeenPact empowered them to effect change in local and state government.
“It gives kids information on how their government works so they can have an impact and be influential in that realm,” Bray said. “... It’s a reminder to Christians that, although we have a heavenly citizenship, we can and should have an impact on our earthly citizenship as well, and we should not walk away from that responsibility.”
During the mock legislature, students introduced bills on a variety of subjects.
These bills included hot-button issues being discussed by actual legislators this session, such as vaccine mandates and transgender participation in sports. It also
includedbillsfocused on subjects like driver safety and the implementation of a biblical history elective for public school students.
Several proposed bills focused on meeting the needs of homeschoolers.
For example, Wachob introduced a bill that would require public schools to accept homeschool credits if students decide to transfer.
“Eventually my sisters or I might want to go to the high school, but we wouldn’t have the right credits unless we did online school,” Wachob said. “I didn’t really think that was fair.”
Sophomore Shannon Swaney introduced a bill that would allow homeschoolers participating in public school activities to be accommodated by any school district in the state.
“That was inspired by my experience because I wanted to participate in the Nordic team in Cody, but couldn’t do it because I live in the Powell school district,” Swaney said.
While fighting for their ideas on the floor of the mock legislature, the students learned a lot about the challenges of passing legislation.
“You can be reading this bill and think, ‘Wow, this is really well written,’ and then someone will identify a con, and it will completely derail it,” sophomore Adam Swaney said. “Little things can change everything.”
Freshman Haven Robbins agreed, but noted that feedback from their peers made the students’ legislation stronger.
“The questions the other students would ask you about a bill gave you a different point of view and a different perspective,” Robbins said. “So I think that was good for everyone. They asked hard questions that we really needed to think about.”
While in Cheyenne, the students also had a chance to meet and interact with legislators, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and Secretary of State Chuck Gray among other elected officials.
Students said these meetings helped humanize the state’s lawmakers.
“It was interesting just to see that they were normal people,” freshman Presley Bray said. “They’re normal people debating some very important things — things that affect us a lot.”
Eighth-grader Noah Kingston agreed and said his experience at TeenPact had encouraged him to raise his voice about issues that concerned him.
“This experience has shown me that I can write an email to our representatives and they’ll actually respond,” Kingston said. “I’ve always thought of them as faraway people, but they actually care about what we have to say.”
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