Youth learn Legislative process during trip to Pierre | TSLN.com

Youth learn Legislative process during trip to Pierre

When you're 15, politics can be confusing. South Dakota¹s Legislature is now more understandable for the teens who earned their way to attend the Farmers Union Two Year Legislative Award Trip, Feb 3-5, 2015.

"Until we made this trip to Pierre, we didn't understand what the Legislators do here exactly; it's been so interesting to see how it works," said Sammi Murtha, 15, a freshman at Parkston High School.

Her friend, Jennifer Hanson, adds; "It's one thing to read about the Legislative process in school, but by being here in the Capitol we get to see it live,²"says the Britton/Hecla High School freshman.

Like many youth who become involved in Farmers Union Youth Programs, Murtha lives in a rural community and enjoys the opportunity Farmers Union gives her to meet youth from across the state and learn about topics like leadership and cooperatives, which are not typically taught in school. Her friend Taylin Montague, 14, agrees.

"Farmers Union events bring us together with other people we would not have an opportunity to meet otherwise. I live in New Underwood and these girls live in eastern South Dakota ­ we became friends at camp," Montague, a freshman at New Underwood High School, explains.

Along with teaching youth about how their state's government works, the Legislative Youth Trip is designed as one of four reward trips youth can earn throughout their high school years, explains Bonnie Geyer, Farmers Union Education Director.

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"Within the youth program there are five levels of achievement. Students earn their way to each level through community service projects, essays and participation in Farmers Union events," Geyer says.

The reward trips coincide with the Farmers Union mission and triangle ­ Cooperation, Legislation and Education. Their first year youth can attend State Leadership Camp at half price, the second year is the Pierre Legislative trip, the third year is a trip to Minneapolis to learn about Cooperatives and fourth year students can earn a trip to the National Farmers Union Camp in Colorado. The fifth year is their Torchbearer award, the highest honor bestowed upon youth in Farmers Union. Torchbearers earn a trip to the National Farmers Union Convention.

"These trips offer incentive as well as valuable opportunities for students," Geyer says.

Jonah Murtha, 16, whole-heartedly agrees. "I've learned a lot about cooperatives and cooperation in general," explains the Parkston High School Sophomore.

The group was able to join other Farmers Union members in the annual Farmers Union Legislative Day activities, attend committee hearings, observe floor action in both the House and Senate and meet with lobbyists, pages and interns. The group also visited the Law Enforcement Training Academy, the World War II, Vietnam and Fighting Stallions Memorials, the Discovery Center and toured the Capitol.

–South Dakota Farmers Union