WCU Public Policy Institute to sponsor Youth Congress on April 5

Students from across Western North Carolina will get a chance to voice their opinions on a variety of local, state and federal government issues while receiving an interactive lesson on the legislative process when they convene in a youth assembly Saturday, April 5, in the Asheville Civic Center Banquet Hall.

The eighth annual American Youth Congress: Youth Legislative Think Tank, organized by Western Carolina University’s Public Policy Institute, is to open to 140 students in grades seven through 12 from public and private schools. Faculty at participating schools will select students to participate in this free program.

“This is an opportunity for youth to solve local, state or national problems,” said Gordon Mercer, director of WCU’s Public Policy Institute. “A summary of all proposed legislation is sent to the N.C. General Assembly. In many cases, the voice of the youth is heard, and legislation based on their ideas is actually later passed at the local, state or national level as appropriate. This is one of the youth’s best chances to really be heard, as well as be legislator for a day.”

Students will compete for more than 12 awards for individual and team performances. In addition, a summary of the students’ legislation will be sent to the N.C. General Assembly.

Participants include students from the following schools:

Buncombe County – Erwin High, North Buncombe High, Owen High, Orton Academy and Roberson High.

Haywood County – Tuscola High.

Henderson County – Hendersonville Middle.

Macon County – Macon Middle.

Madison County – Madison High.

Swain County – Swain Middle.

Students from the Cherokee Junaluska Council, the LBJ Conservation Corps Student Government Association and the Haywood Early College Program also will attend.

“The students who attend this event are interested in government, either as a future politician or an informed member of society,” said Robert McDowell, an instructor at Haywood Community College who teaches at Tuscola High. “Students need a well-rounded education, and thanks to WCU, they are able to gain the knowledge and experience needed to be familiar with the inner workings of government at all levels.”

Additional sponsors of the event include the city of Asheville, Asheville Citizen-Times, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Macon County, Pi Gamma Mu National Honor Society and the WCU political science and public affairs department.

For more information about the American Youth Congress, call the Public Policy Institute at (828) 227-2086.