Politics: a word that doesn’t have the most positive connotation, especially when heard by today’s youth. The thoughts “boring” or “unexciting” usually come up in association to the word, specifically by those who are more interested in paying attention to their cell phones or what the latest news may be in celebrity gossip. Politics and government doesn’t always seem like thrilling topics to teenagers in today’s society, giving off the idea that maybe government is just for older adults.
But in mock government programs like Youth and Government, Model United Nations, and Boys and Girls State (alongside many others), confused teens have the opportunity to be take on a role that is similar to those on an actual government level. They have the ability to give speeches, debate, and work with those who want to improve society. I was in a program called Youth and Government where I got to work with individuals both on a state and national level, learning about different issues and writing about topics that mattered to me. Here are six reasons why joining the program was absolutely life-changing:
You broaden your perspective on different issues.
Before joining the program, I absolutely knew nothing about gentrification (or that it was an issue at all in many varying areas around the state). The topic was foreign to me, and I had no feelings on the matter. But through the program, I talked to people who knew so many different facts and statistics that they taught me how to create my own opinions and use my own judgment. With every speech or argument debate, my feelings would sway back and both until I officially had my own educated idea of an issue that mattered. Mock government programs teach you how to be knowledgable and who to make your own opinions, especially since every single person’s thoughts matter.
You learn to respect others for their opinions and become more open-minded.
With every individual who may share your beliefs and ideas on certain topics, however, there are always going to be individuals who may have a different perspective and viewpoint on the world that may not necessarily align with yours. And that’s okay—the world would be too boring if everyone agreed on everything. However, it’s important to be respectful and accepting of someone else’s opinion (even if you may not understand or agree with it), and these programs teach delegates the importance of respecting someone else’s opinions and understanding that not everyone thinks the same way.
You gain the opportunities of a lifetime.
I remember during my first year of Youth and Government, despite the fact that I didn’t have that much skill at debating or writing or speaking, a group of delegates and I were offered the opportunity to intern at the state house for a highly respected representative who wanted teens that were interested in government. Other opportunities included working at an office, a non-profit, and even a program that sought to teach younger kids about the basics of our democratic system. The reason for so many offers occurring was simple: people appreciated that a teenager, especially in today’s technological society, cared about our government and how the world was going to turn out. The opportunities only grew and grew as I became more experienced in the program, and more people wanted someone who could see beyond their own needs (and instead, see the world’s).
You get to bang a gavel (sometimes).
Even though it’s a mock government, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel real. You may get to bang a gavel, wear a robe, wear a badge—all the things that make government look cool.
You make connections.
Getting by in life is all about networking and meeting people to create strong, solid relationships with one another. Throughout my experience in a mock government program, I had the incredible opportunity to meet state senators, state representatives, chairmen, legislators, CEO’s, and many, many more important people who have such a huge impact on the world. My involvement in government exemplified my appreciation for the work they do to better our nation, and they appreciated me back for caring about the same issues they did.
You gain a family.
Never have I felt more welcomed, appreciated, respected, or loved than when I joined a group of people who were so different in so many ways (in appearance, ethnic background, social class, political opinion) but also so similar in so many ways (in our values, our drive, and our common desire to be involved in our government and form a better society). I made friendships that will last a lifetime (hailing from places like Delaware, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Ohio, Hawaii) with people who I’m sure would let me sleep on their couch if I was ever traveling the country, just as I would do for them.
You feel fulfilled and have fun.
Through these programs, teenagers have the ability to learn more about their country’s democratic processes and be involved in their government. But more importantly, they learn more about the values that make them better friends, leaders, and people within society—all the while enjoying themselves and feeling as though they’ve made a difference in the way youth are perceived. The growth that mock government programs allow is undeniable, and I wouldn’t have changed my experience for anything else in the world.