Thursday, March 21, 2013

"Under the Dome" gives high school students an insider look at state government

Over 50 Illinois high school students got a behind the scenes look at state government during the University of Illinois Springfield's annual "Under the Dome" day on March 20, 2013.

The students started their day at UIS where they boarded buses to the Illinois State Capitol. Once they arrived, they took a tour, learned about the legislative process, and met with lawmakers.

“You can’t get this on a normal tour,” said Joan Sestak, UIS director of community relations. “They’re going to see and experience things they wouldn’t be able to see or experience at any other time and only with UIS.”

“Under the Dome” is designed specifically for high school students interested in government, politics, and public service. The day of activities is designed to highlight careers in state government.

“My ultimate goal would be a congressman at the federal level, but I also understand you have to do some things to get to that level,” said Garrett Ziegler, a junior at Altamont High School.

Ziegler is not alone is his political ambitions, Illini Central High School junior Cole Harris left the capitol with a renewed interest in state government and some new friends.

“It’s nice to come here and learn a lot more about it. I’d like to be here someday,” said Harris. The “Under the Dome” behind the scenes tour was led by alumni, such as John Webber, who works in state government, and regularly interacts with state lawmakers.

“It’s very important for younger people to understand the role of the legislators and how it all comes together in this building,” said Webber.

What makes the tour unique is the access UIS alumni provide and the knowledge they share with high school students during their visit.

“Our tour guide really went into detail with everything and she tried to show us a lot of things that not a lot of people get to see. We met the state treasurer and he told us stories and everything,” said Justice Collins, a senior at Springfield’s Southeast High School.

The day is also designed to highlight the abundance of opportunities to study state government at UIS, while showcasing experienced faculty members.

“We want them to realize how close UIS is to this aspect of Public Administration and if they’re interested in this type of career there’s no better place to get that type of instruction,” said Webber.

UIS has hosted the “Under the Dome” event for the past five years. For more information on the next “Under the Dome” event, visit

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