Muhlenberg Hosts Senator for a Day

The program gives local high school students firsthand experience in the legislative process.

By: Kristine Yahna Todaro  Monday, December 16, 2019 08:27 AM

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High school students participated in the Senator for a Day program at Muhlenberg.

You may know the main job of a state senator is to improve the lives of the voters in his or her district by creating and passing legislation. But how exactly does the process work? 

In November, over 130 local high school students experienced the process firsthand through the Senator for a Day program at Muhlenberg College. A program run by state senators throughout the Commonwealth, this is the twelveth year the College has hosted the program for this region, which is organized by the office of Pennsylvania State Senator Pat Browne.

High school students from Allentown Central Catholic High School, Building 21 Allentown, Dieruff High School, Emmaus High School, Executive Education Academy Charter School, Lincoln Leadership Academy, Northwestern Lehigh High School, Parkland High School, Roberto Clemente Charter School, Southern Lehigh High School and William Allen High School participated in this year's program.

The day kicked off with an explanation of the legislative process from Senator Browne. Each student was assigned as a member of the Education, Finance, Judiciary or Transportation Committee and each Committee was given two bills to address. The Committees selected a student to act as a prime sponsor for each of the bills as well as a Chairperson whose role was to run the meeting and maintain proper decorum. Special interest groups (real-life members of Browne’s legislative staff and lobbyists) either opposed or supported the bills. Finally, the student Senators brought their bills to the floor for a vote and amended, killed or passed the bills.

Through it all, they were encouraged to remember that they were representing the constituents who had elected them and to think about how that should influence their vote.

“The high school students were incredibly engaged and their deliberations were very thoughtful and effective,” said Muhlenberg’s Director of Corporate, Foundation & Government Relations Bill McGlinn, who helps coordinate the program each year. “They worked with respectful, professional decorum in the committees and while bringing their arguments to the mock senate when they came to the floor to vote."

Muhlenberg students Quentin Bernhard '20, Tyson Butcher '21, Ben Gotian '22, Emily Hurley '20,  Noah Kaldenhoven '22, Jarrid Levy '21, Caroline Maglaras '23, Emily McLaughlin '23, Alexandra Watson '20, Samantha White '23, Cydney Wilson '23 and Maddy Vaver '20 volunteered their time during the day, helping coach the high school students through the committee meetings. 

Senator Pat Browne speaks with high school students during a Committee discussion session.

“Our student volunteers understand the legislative process—many were involved in student government when they were in high school or are studying the field as political science majors—so they’re wonderful at coaching the high school students through the committee meetings,” said McGlinn, adding that the program is one of his favorites each year. 

“The Senator for a Day program gives the next generation of young leaders the opportunity to gain firsthand experience as decision-makers in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. It is impressive to witness the creativity and passion of these students as they work through the mock law-making process,” Senator Browne said. “A special thank you to Muhlenberg College for again hosting this event.”

About Muhlenberg College
Founded in 1848, Muhlenberg is a highly selective, private, four-year residential, liberal arts college offering baccalaureate and graduate programs. With an enrollment of approximately 2,200 students, Muhlenberg College is dedicated to shaping creative, compassionate, collaborative leaders through rigorous academic programs in the arts, humanities, natural sciences and social sciences; selected preprofessional programs, including accounting, business, education and public health; and progressive workforce-focused post-baccalaureate certificates and master’s degrees. Located in Allentown, Pennsylvania, approximately 90 miles west of New York City, Muhlenberg is a member of the Centennial Conference, competing in 22 varsity sports. Muhlenberg is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.