Politicians' visit with Youth in Government delegation an eye-opening experience

Written by: Sadie Bender Shorr, Youth In Government participant


On Dec. 15, the Stevens Point Youth in Government delegation was lucky enough to host 71st District State Rep. Katrina Shankland and State Sen. Julie Lassa for an informal question-and-answer session. The meeting started with the two of them introducing themselves to the group and giving a general background of their educational and political pasts.


Lassa is a proud Stevens Point Area Senior High graduate; this was especially motivating to us as current SPASH students to see such a successful figure in politics sprout from the same roots as ours. She elaborated on her 2003 State Senate race, saying that it was the most expensive primary for State Senate, but she believed that the reason for her victory was purely based on the fact that her platforms were more important to the voters, an important lesson to all aspiring politicians.
Shankland was inspirational because of her very young age. At 26, she is the youngest legislator in Wisconsin. Shankland, a recent University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, knew she wanted to pursue a career in government when she was in sixth or seventh grade. After working for various nonprofits, interning at the capitol and teaching English to children in Mexico, Shankland ran for the State Assembly seat in 2012 and assumed office in January 2013. She discussed her passion for clean government. "What should government be, if not for the people?" she asked, making an argument for true representation citizens in government.
Each of them made statements about their support for the Affordable Care Act, as well. They believe that it could change so many lives and be worth so much to the people of Wisconsin. Kids also asked questions about their campaigns. They explained that the dirty attack ads that we see on TV usually aren't straight from the candidates. Corporations are allowed to throw money into campaigns in order to make these ads, therefore distorting the elections with money. As a soon-to-be voter, I was glad that I was able to hear the truth from these former candidates themselves.
At SPASH, a majority of the student population isn't very informed about politics nor do they have a strong interest in the current issues of today. This is mostly because they believe that nothing really affects them and also because they do not have the right to vote. I asked, "How do you get them to care?" Lassa jumped right onto my question. She immediately responded by saying, "Government affects you no matter what." Government makes it possible for you to flip a switch and have light, drive down a plowed street after a snowstorm, and know that the food on your dinner table is safe. Lassa went on to say that it's not fair for people to complain about current situations if they claim to believe that it "didn't matter."
Shankland piggybacked Lassa's remarks by saying that we need to participate because we won't get the results we want if we don't. She made a valid point about why high school students should pay attention: legislators determine how affordable our college educations will be. Student loans obviously affect us.
I believe that we, as kids, are out of excuses to not care. She concluded by saying, "You're the ones determining the course of the future." And she's right; we are.