HELENA – Future leaders were in Helena this week for the Montana 4-H Center for Youth Development Citizenship Seminar.
Thirty-eight teens from around the state participated in the seminar hosted by Montana State University. The students learned the legislative process with a mock legislature, toured the capitol, participated in a service project to help those affected by homelessness, and heard from elected officials.
The youth heard from U.S. Senator Jon Tester, U.S. Senator Steve Daines, Governor Steve Bullock, Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, and Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins. The elected officials told the students about their paths into government service and answered questions.
In his speech, Governor Bullock expressed the opportunities with government the students have just by living in the state.
“We have something, from my perspective, that is really unique in Montana and its accessibility to government. The gift is that if you want to learn more about this system and how to impact your communities, you will be given the tools to do so,” said Bullock. “It takes one person with one idea that they’re passionate or frustrated about to make a difference in the state of Montana.”
While fielding question from the young leaders, Senator Daines told the students that a role model of his is President Abraham Lincoln.
“I am a proponent and believer in what I call servant-leadership,” conveyed Daines. “Leadership is not about ruling over people. Leadership is about serving people.”
Senator Tester encouraged the students to get involved and have their voice heard in the lawmaking process at the state capitol.
“You are all citizens of Montana and you can all give your two bits and quite frankly have your input be heard in [the legislature]. That’s important because everybody’s opinion counts,” said Tester.
Cade Duran of Lewis and Clark County 4-H said he never thought it would be as easy to get involved in the lawmaking process and was amazed at the passion his peers brought to their discussions.
“The kids here spoke about some bills that they feel passionate about and it was really cool to see youth rise up and be so adult-like and informative and passionate about these issues that they care about,” said Duran.
Missoula County 4-H ambassador Kara Klietz has been in 4-H for seven years now and said she’s had great opportunities to grow as a leader through the program.
Klietz added she’s inspired to continue to be a leader in her community.
“I think I’ll run for office eventually. It would be really awesome to influence so many people and if you have good intentions that’s really powerful,” said Klietz.
-John Riley reporting for MTN News