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4-H’ers in Utah hold mock legislature

Students prepared by learning about their assigned bills and the lawmaking process.

May 17, 2024

2 Min Read
Mock legislature
4-H Mock Legislature participant Jaylie Holdaway on the house floor.Utah State University

By Shelby Ruud Jarman

Seventy-six Utah State University Extension 4-H members visited the Utah State Capitol in April to participate in the 36-year-old tradition of the 4-H Mock Legislature.

During the event, 15 participants sponsored bills that were discussed during the 2024 Utah legislative session. The 4-H members presented their bills, debated them, and voted on them, all on the floor of the Utah Capitol Building where the actual Utah legislative session takes place.

“I don’t think there is another group that gets the honor of being on the House floor,” said JoLene Bunnell, USU Extension professor and 4-H youth development professional. “This is a rare experience for the youth, and it makes it real for them.”

The 4-H members prepared for the mock legislature by learning about their assigned bills and the lawmaking process. They studied the bills, watched videos of the legislative session, and even emailed the representatives who sponsored their bills to get more information.

“Civic engagement is important for people my age because it helps us understand how important our legislative system is,” said Jaylie Holdaway, 4-H member and mock legislature participant. “It creates interest in our government process and inspires us to get involved.”

Along with learning about government processes, participating in the mock legislature is a chance to gain important life skills, according to Bunnell.

“They gain civility and learn to communicate in a civil manner with people of different opinions than their own,” Bunnell said. “They gain confidence in public speaking and leading meetings.  They get to run committee meetings, present bills, discuss bills, and vote on bills. It is a great experience for the teens.”

Youth encouraged

The event was sponsored by Representative Joel Briscoe. He welcomed the youth and encouraged them to work together to find solutions.

“I learned that we have to consider the other side before we just start arguing,” said Matthew Carrillo, 4-H member and mock legislature participant. “That was a big takeaway from Representative Briscoe's speech, and we used that advice throughout the day.”

Carrillo noted that the youth often voted differently than the Utah legislature, giving a glimpse of what the future could look like.

Rachel Thurgood has participated in the 4-H Mock Legislature twice before and returned this year as a state 4-H ambassador. As a committee chair, she assigned bills to her fellow 4-H members and led the committee meetings where the bills were discussed.

“I'll be a registered voter in less than a year,” she said. “This will actually affect me. It’s good to be aware of what’s going on.”

Utah 4-H is committed to positive youth development in a variety of different program areas, including civic engagement and leadership. The annual 4-H Mock Legislature is one way that members learn by doing. Learn more about Utah 4-H programs here.

[Shelby Ruud Jarman writes for Utah State University.]

Source: Utah State University

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