RICHMOND Kayla Goodman, a high school junior from Roanoke, skipped class last week but she wasnt playing hooky.
Instead, Goodman spent Monday through Thursday in Richmond with 70 other enthusiastic students, learning about government as a
participant in TeenPact, a nonprofit Christian organization that holds intensive leadership classes in 38 state capitals.
The main thing I take away (from TeenPact) is a passion to learn more about my government and how it works and what is going on, Goodman said. I really want to be involved in my government now. Before, I didnt really care about it but now I want to come back and research bills and people who are in positions in the government.
TeenPact provides a fast-paced week of training about government, leadership and the importance of students relationship with God.
Students get experience analyzing bills and media coverage, interviewing lobbyists, participating in debates and viewing the House and Senate in session. Students also take part in a prayer walk around the grounds of the Capitol, praying that government officials make wise decisions.
Before students arrive, they must fulfill a number of assignments, including writing letters to their legislators, studying sections of the Bible and praying for lawmakers by name.
To help understand how laws are made, students play the roles of lawmakers writing mock bills, holding committee meetings and forming a pretend legislature.
The entire class is divided into five committees, said Kate Lewanowicz, a TeenPact field staff member. So the kids write their bills, and the legislature assigns bills to a committee. What I do is lead a committee, and we go over all of the bills that have been assigned to our committee, and we vote to pass or fail them or sometimes amend them.
Lewanowicz said that if a committee approves a bill, it goes to the floor of the TeenPact House of Delegates for further debate.
TeenPact has other activities to teach students about government. For example, they play a game called constitutional power grab to learn about the three branches of government.
Many of the groups staff members became interested in government while attended TeenPact classes as young teenagers.
I think my passion for politics in general came from being a student in TeenPact, said Lewanowicz, a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.
A double-major studying English and political science, Lewanowicz said she enjoys interacting with and leading the students. I really enjoy the re-communication, passing things on that Ive learned.
TeenPact imparts not only government knowledge but also Christian values, said Jonathan Morris, the organizations program director from Moonville, S.C.
Something that Ive been telling students is while its very important for Christians to be involved in politics and to be aware of whats going on in the political arena to change the heart of a nation, you have to be out in the streets telling about the love of Christ, Morris said.
TeenPact has been in operation for 14 years. In the years to come, Morris said, former TeenPact participants will rise up to become powerful tools for Christ.
At least one of our students ran for a public office I believe for a town-hall position in his town and is now working as a security guard in the capital, Morris said. We have people who are getting their degrees in law and pursuing judicial positions.
For more information about TeenPact, visit teenpact.com.