Thursday, March 25, 2010

"Under the Dome" gives high school students and teachers a look inside state government



More than two dozen high school students and teachers from central Illinois spent a day as statehouse insiders at the capitol on Wednesday, March 24.

The University of Illinois Springfield’s “Under the Dome” is the state’s premier immersion event for high school juniors interested in government, politics, and public service.

“Most students when they come here to the capitol only get to see what the public gets to see, but because UIS has so many alumni engaged in government we’re able to take these high school students behind the scenes,” said Ed Wojcicki, UIS associate chancellor for constituent relations.

Wojcicki estimates UIS has hundreds, if not thousands of alumni working in state government in Springfield. UIS has been preparing leaders in government and public service since its founding 40 years ago.

Students and teachers spent the day behind the scenes at the statehouse on one of the busiest days of the legislative session. They talked with lawmakers and lobbyists, analysts and journalists, and got to see up close how policy is made in Illinois.

“I’ve never been to the capitol. This is actually my first day and… I never realized it was so busy and all these people were here, but it’s actually pretty cool,” said Ellisa Marsh a junior at Springfield’s Southeast High School.

The “Under the Dome” experience has inspired Marsh to take a closer look at a career in state government and she's already decided she wants to do an internship. She gives credit to “Under the Dome” for sparking her interest in politics.

“It opens a lot of doors and gives you opportunities. I never really had an interest in government until actually today,” said Marsh.

Allison Weidhuner, a junior at Greenview High School agrees it was worth spending a day at the capitol. She says she never realized how many people work at the capitol and the type of work they do.

“It helps you understand the whole process and get to know your government,” she said.

Wojcicki hopes the students take the knowledge they’ve learned back to their schools and that it inspires them in whatever career they choose.

“I hope they go home excited about state government. I hope they go home saying you know what I saw something in downtown Springfield I’ve never seen before. That was really interesting. I didn’t know that’s what happens in government,” he said.

The university is planning a similar “Under the Dome” event for Chicago area high school juniors on April 21. For more information visit http://www.uis.edu/welcome/dome.html.

UIS government-related majors include Communication, Criminal Justice, Environmental Sciences, Environmental Studies, Global Studies, Legal Studies, Political Science, Public Administration, Public Affairs Reporting and Public Health.

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