January 23, 2013

Milwaukee Courier

Legislatively Speaking: Senate Scholar Program Opens New Doors for Students

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

Every year, 33 high school students from across Wisconsin are selected to participate in the Wisconsin Senate Scholars program.  This is a rigorous week-long program for juniors or seniors in high school to live in Madison and participate and learn about the functioning of the Wisconsin State Senate.  Students do everything I do from talking to bill drafters to conducting a public hearing.  It is a remarkable program that changes the lives of every single student that participates in it.

In one week, students who are selected will meet with all the legislative service agencies, their Senators and Representatives, staff members, tour the Governor’s mansion, meet the Supreme Court, talk with the press corps, get lobbied by lobbyists, and attend meetings with the UW-Madison faculty.  Throughout that week in Madison, Senate Scholars also staff the Senate while in session, working with me, to advance bills and pass legislation.  All of this is done not just to work in the Senate, but to learn about the Senate.  In the midst of the week, the scholars are planning for their own bills, and conduct a public hearing on a bill on Friday just as a Senator would.

The Senate Scholar program will run three different times, April 7-12, April 14-19, and May 5-10.  Students will only be in the program for one of these weeks and live in Madison under the chaperone supervision of senate staff.  To be eligible, students must have the recommendation of their high school principal.  This is a week away from school so coordination with the school will be necessary to ensure that students stay on track.

Students from Milwaukee are needed for this program.  Far too often, students and their families are deterred by the application fee.  Please, please, please, do not let this stop you!  This fee can satisfied by financial assistance from outside organizations.  If you are interested and want to apply, do so.  We can help to get you into the program if selected, should finances be a problem.

It is rare to find such an opportunity for high school students to be so actively in the work of their government.  It is a week of personal growth and a week of professional development.  Senate Scholars have returned to work as pages in the Senate and some are now Senate staff.  If you are interested or know of a student that would be an asset to this program, make sure to apply!

Applications are due on April 1st for the program.  You can find more information and applications at www.senatescholar.com or you can call my office at 414-342-7176.