FLAG students develop public policy proposals

March 16, 2018 GMT

Officials with the city of Portage, Columbia County Board and area public school systems took a working lunch Wednesday to hear pitches from students unveiling policy prescriptions for current county issues.

At the Columbia County Law Enforcement Center, University of Wisconsin-Extension Community, Natural Resource and Economic Development Educator Kathleen Haas introduced the teens who are in month seven of the eight-month Future Leaders Active in Government program.

The groups of two to four students developed policy proposals from areas of opioid addiction, local economic development, workplace equality and mass shooting prevention. The groups included first-year students with a returning second-year student acting as a team lead.

“The kids did really great — they knew their material and I even learned some new things,” Haas said after the luncheon, highlighting points such as the prevalence of opioid abuse, particularly in Columbia County, the way that Department of Workforce Development has become a “one-stop-shop” for getting information on potential discrimination claims, and the number of resources available at the state and federal level.

Over the course of the program, aided in a visit with the Wisconsin Counties Association in Madison, students develop “elevator pitches” to convey the scope of the issue they are approaching and steps that can be taken to address it.

The students focused on school shooting prevention, Grace Gladdem of Portage and Tanner Johnson of Pardeeville, met with staff from the office of State Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, with plans to work on school safety legislation for the next session in the fall.

“They said to work on getting it out there more,” said Poynette senior Taylor Fourmier, whose group gave a presentation on workplace discrimination. “If you push it more, it will become a bigger topic, because (Rep. Dave) Considine said that it is hard to see this is still a problem in today’s society.”

“It is hard too,” Poynette junior Grace Murray said, “because you want to get it out there, but it is a hard issue to come up on because you have to focus on everything: race, gender, sexuality, everything. Because if you just focus on men versus women, there are going to be people of different races, or sexualities coming back because, what about them?”

“He said if we don’t bring them all up together, it’s going to cause all these other separate problems,” Fourmier said. “So we need to bring everyone up as one.”

“Because everyone is equal,” said Pardeeville junior Madelyn Cook.

Participants will get back together and celebrate the year’s work before going before the Columbia County Board of Supervisors to give their annual briefing of the group’s activity and accomplishments.