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March Program Spotlight: Youth Lobby School

A diverse group of highschoolers stand in front of the Nebraska state capitol building

In December of 2023, the Nebraska Table introduced a brand new program: Youth Lobby School. Spearheaded by Policy Fellow Andrew Farias, Youth Lobby School is modeled after our successful adult Lobby School to support youth from historically exploited or marginalized communities in making their voices heard. 

Every month since December, high school students from Lincoln and Omaha have gathered together to learn how to engage with and advocate for causes that matter to them. This program provided the students with a closer look at our legislative processes through lessons, guest speakers, and lunches with elected officials, bridging the gap in access for many. 

Last Wednesday, March 21st, the inaugural cohort met for their last session and an opportunity to talk with Senators at Youth Lobby Day. Participants trickled into the meeting room dressed to the nines, greeting one another, and talking enthusiastically about the political and civic engagement issues they were interested in and had dedicated research to. The energy and enthusiasm was palpable.

After a morning of discussion and preparation around advocacy fundamentals, the group walked over to the Nebraska State Capitol, stopping of course to pet the Capitol cat before entering the building. They spent the next couple of hours pulling Senators off the floor to talk with them and discuss policy they cared about. Small circles of young advocates with Senators populated the rotunda. 

In the words of a participant, “It was an amazing experience. I gained hands-on experience on what it’s like talking with senators. I got to learn about the Nebraska unicameral system in a fun and interactive way… and was able to hear about different perspectives outside of my area. I am truly grateful for this opportunity.”

Reflecting on their experience in Youth Lobby School and their time in the Capitol, there was one resounding takeaway: the Legislative process is not only accessible but their knowledge and opinions can have an impact. 

As one participant described, “I didn’t know really what I was signing up for when I applied to the program but after the first meeting, I was immediately hooked. I feel like my knowledge about local legislation has grown tenfold and really changes the way I will advocate in the future. [The program] gave me so many great resources and connections to broaden the reach of my impact. I found this opportunity to be truly one of a kind!"

Youth Lobby School creates a unique space for young people to engage with the issues that impact their lives. Young people are too often ignored and spoken for in policy without including them in the process. We have seen that when young people speak up about issues that impact them they make a difference.This program helps to build a community of young advocates passionate about creating change in Nebraska to make it a state they want to live in. These advocates are Nebraska’s future leaders and change makers.

Know a young advocate who would benefit from attending Youth Lobby school? Applications for the 2024-2025 cohort will open in the Fall. Follow Nebraska Table’s social media and watch our newsletter space for information about applications closer to that time. 

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