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TeenPact trains youth for godly government
by Pat Centner
AFA Journal News Editor
AFA Journal, Nov/Dec, 2002 edition
The young man banged the gavel and announced in a loud voice, “The ‘ayes’ have it!” As the room erupted in applause, he stepped away from the lectern and returned to his seat. The “Senate” of the State of Mississippi had just voted on and passed a legislative bill that would ban abortion in the state.
Controversial bills like this, and others just as serious, were written and presented to the Mock Legislature at the TeenPact Leadership School held earlier this year in Jackson, Mississippi. Teenagers from across the state served as mock members of a House of Representatives and Senate, and were taught the basics of parliamentary procedure while also learning to apply Christian principles to the governing process.
TeenPact is a four-day Biblically-based training program designed to help today’s youth develop a passion for citizenship and justice in government. First begun in 1994 by Georgian Tim Echols, there are TeenPact schools in 30 states today. Youth aged 13 to 19 come from Christian, public and home schools in their respective states and convene for classes in their state capitol building during a regular legislative session. As a result, they get firsthand experience in how their state government is run.
Each day begins with a devotion, prayer and singing. Participants take a “prayer walk” through their capitol building, and stop to pray at the Senate and House chambers, as well as at the offices of their governor and other elected officials. Lobbying, debate and bill-writing are all studied as part of the learning process.
Friday is the day for “TeenyPact,” a condensed version of the school for youngsters eight to 12. AFA’s director of special projects, Randy Sharp, enjoys politics, and he and wife, Donna, took their two daughters, Christy and Laura, to TeenyPact in Jackson. All enjoyed the day immensely and were amazed at how much they learned.
“I liked the part where the staff did a funny skit to show us how bills are made into law,” says Christy, age 11. “And I liked it that everyone got to write their own bill and present it. We had a lot of fun.”
Randy agrees with Christy’s appreciation of the staff. “What impressed me most was they made it clear up front that it was going to be a God-honoring day. They weren’t there just to teach the kids how government works, but to help them understand why it’s so important that Christians become involved in the political process. The staff’s professionalism and enthusiasm, along with the requirement for modest dress by all, were also impressive.”
Laura Sharp, 14, observed, “It was a great opportunity to go and learn about how our government works in Mississippi. I liked going on the prayer walk and stopping to pray for our leaders. Also, this was my first time inside the state capitol building. It’s really beautiful.”
“The whole experience was worthwhile just to see our kids realize they don’t have to be intimidated by government – that they can, in fact, help get actual bills passed,” said Randy. “The staff told us about a 14-year-old Arizona boy who wrote a bill to prevent sex predators from being released on low bail. An Arizona senator introduced the bill to the State Legislature, and it was voted into law.
“After we returned home, Christy began investigating a proposed Mississippi bill that’s been stuck at the committee level for a while. It’s a law to make bicycle helmets mandatory for children. We might have a little politician on our hands.”
Curtis Whatley is program director for TeenPact. When asked for additional program benefits, he mentioned the alumni program and the onsite classes ranging from the United Nations to outdoor survival. “TeenPact is developing leaders with strong Christian morals and principles,” Whatley said. “Through hands-on experience, our students learn about state government from a Christian worldview. We strive toward changing lives to change the world.”
For information, call TeenPact at 1-888-343-1776, or visit www.teenpact.com.
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