Area students attend Youth Congress at USD

Area students attend Youth Congress at USD Four local students were among nearly 30 high school sophomores and juniors from South Dakota and Arkansas who discussed the future of precollege education in South Dakota during the second annual 1999 Youth Congress held recently at The University of South Dakota. Sponsored by the Chiesman Foundation for Democracy of Rapid City, the USD Chiesman Fund for Civic Education and Kids Voting South Dakota, the conference centered on the theme, "Youth Perspectives on Precollege of Education."

Students discussed and made recommendations on the future of precollege education in South Dakota. They also developed a vision statement that will be shared with policymakers, educators, business leaders and citizens in the state describing the condition of prekindergarden to high school education in South Dakota. South Dakota Secretary of Education Ray Christensen and USD President James W. Abbott presented the keynote lectures at the three-day event.

"I was very impressed by all of the deep thinking that went on during the Congress," said Allison Knutson of Vermillion. "I felt very privileged to have participated in this, because it's a great honor that only very few students have the chance to do."

Matthew Amon of Yankton liked the event because it allowed students to give their recommendations on the state of education in South Dakota. "I've realized that this is a very good program that seems to actually give a voice to youth," Amon said.

The student participants from South Dakota and Arkansas were part of a peer exchange program, sponsored by the California-based Arsalyn Foundation. The peer exchange was used to promote the sharing of models and methodologies of civic and community participation in each state. Later this year, South Dakota students will travel to Arkansas to participate in their first annual Youth Congress.

Anthony Senne of Vermillion said that he enjoyed participating in the Congress and exchange program. "I thought it was a great way of meeting new people and hearing their views and topics on precollege education in South Dakota," he said.

Jill Haenfler of Avon agreed with Senne that the event was a fantastic way to bring students together. "It was a productive couple of days. As a group of leaders, we have strived for and accomplished some very great achievements. It is awesome to know that we, as young adults, can have an influence of the future of our state," she said.

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