WCU Public Policy Institute to sponsor American Youth Congress

The sixth annual American Youth Congress: Legislator for a Day, organized by Western Carolina University’s Public Policy Institute, will take place on Saturday, March 25, at the Asheville Civic Center.

About 160 students from grades 7 through 12 from across Western North Carolina are chosen to take part in mock legislation and debates every year at the event.

The youth congress was organized so area students could gain hands-on experience about how local, state and federal policies are carried out. “We try to make it as realistic as possible,” said Gordon Mercer, director of the Public Policy Institute. “Once the students have met, they lobby their idea, present it and propose a cause of action.”

Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy is scheduled to speak about the importance of youth involvement and encourage participating students to get involved in solving community problems. In previous years, N.C. Rep. Wilma Sherrill, U.S. Rep. Charles Taylor and Asheville City Council members have attended the simulated legislation in order to hear what is important to young people, Mercer said.

After the youth assembly, the participants are encouraged to take their ideas to their state, local or federal representatives. Issues such as the state lottery, environmental concerns and economic development strategies are just a few topics that have been brought up in previous sessions, Mercer said.

Participants in the event who have signed up so far include students from:

Buncombe County – Asheville High, North Buncombe High, Enka Middle, Erwin High and T.C. Roberson High schools, and the Orton Academy.

Cherokee County – Andrews High School.

Clay County – Hayesville High School.

Cleveland County – Crest High School.

Haywood County -Tuscola High School.

Henderson County – Hendersonville Middle School.

Macon County – Franklin High School

The Junaluska Leadership Council from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the LBJ Conservation Corp. Student Government Association also will be in attendance.

The event is sponsored by the Public Policy Institute of Western Carolina University, the City of Asheville, the Asheville Citizen-Times, the Horowitz Foundation, the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, Macon County, Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society, and the WCU political science and public affairs department.

For more information about how to sign up for the American Youth Congress, contact the Public Policy Institute at (828) 227-2086.