The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas held the 2017 Youth Civic Leadership Institute on July 12-14 in Lawrence.
Gustavo Murillo and Nickolas Velo, seniors at Emporia High School, were awarded scholarships to attend YCLI. A total of 64 students statewide were selected to participate in the three-day event at no charge.
Gustavo is the son of Silvino and Veronica Murillo; Nick is the son of Jason and Christy Velo. The pair had an engaging experience.
“I learned a lot about public service and how to get involved in community politics and community service,” Gustavo said.
“Gustavo answered it pretty well,” Nick said. “We got a pretty good idea on how to become more civically engaged.”
The institute featured a variety of speakers, outings and workshops focused on the importance of civic engagement in a democracy. This included meeting the Speaker of the House Ray Merrick, Democratic Leader Rep. Tom Burroughs and retired Navy Captain and civic leader Buck Newsom. There was a presentation on Harriet Tubman, a tour of the capitol and discussions on the importance of voting and how one person can make a difference.
The program included a special visit to the capitol in Topeka, where students had the opportunity to meet with state leaders and discuss current issues.
“The activities were engaging,” Gustavo said. “I got to meet a lot of fantastic people who were as involved as I am. Some of the brightest people went there from all over Kansas, and to hear what they think and see what they do was really neat.”
“The activities were a good way to bond with the other people there, and I think that’s a uniquely good experience,” Nick said. “Everyone is there to learn the same thing, everyone is there to try and become more civically engaged and gain interest in politics. So, I think that’s a good networking opportunity for the people who are there.”
Part of the institute involved a scavenger hunt through the capitol.
“The capitol building is beautiful,” Gustavo said. “The amount of detail, even, like, in the staircase. It’s just amazing, and it’s just honoring our state.”
“It kind of felt like everywhere you went there was something tucked away, or hidden away, like a banner on the wall, a design on the door handle,” Nick said. “It was the small things. It was just really pleasant to look at. Maybe that’s not the best word for it, but it made an impact.”
Part of the institute’s programming including a screening of the movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Directed by Frank Capra and starring Jimmy Stewart, the plot is “A naive man is appointed to fill a vacancy in the United States Senate. His plans promptly collide with political corruption, but he doesn’t back down.” (IMDB.com)
“The movie was eyeopening, how political it was — even back then — it really amazed me,” Gustavo said.
“In terms of the movie, I thought Gustavo was right in saying, even back then, it was really political,” Nick said. “I think it was also kind of eyeopening in the sense that one person can make that big of a change and kind of stand up against everyone else.”
The pair has already put their new knowledge in action.
“I’ve been looking at the news a lot more,” Gustavo said. “I’ve been keeping up with all of the political events and have just been more aware of how important these things are. So I’ve been trying to expand my knowledge on how things work because that’s going to affect me — very, very soon.”
Gustavo has been accepted to the University of Kansas; he plans to enroll soon, probably in pre-medicine.
“I think, in the short run, it helped me gain an idea of where I want to go with my career,” Nick said. “I kind of knew that I wanted to do something with either law or politics in the long run, but I never knew quite exactly what. I also think it kind of helped me narrow down where I’m going to go to college. I’m applying to KU; I’ve heard good things about their political science and law programs. I have been getting into more civic engagement since the institute, whether it’s keeping up with the news or simply having discussions with my friends and family about what’s going on.”
Gustavo goes to social media for his news.
“I’ve made the effort to follow the accounts that post about news and what’s going on in the world,” he said. “I’m just building off of what I already do to make sure I’m civically engaged.”
He checks his sources, too.
“I don’t just base my opinions off of one source; I try to find the story, find the news source and then decide whether it’s reliable from there,” Gustavo said.
“I am part of the EHS debate team, so for that, we have to do a lot of looking at both sides of the issue,” he said. “So, I think that seeing both sides is really important. I don’t look for one source; I go to Google news or some sort of search and type in the issue I’m looking for and look through their articles to see both sides of it in order to develop my own opinion.”
The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics is dedicated to promoting political and civic participation, civil discourse and public service in a bipartisan, philosophically balanced manner. Through its robust public programming, congressional archive and museum, the Dole Institute strives to celebrate public service and the legacies of U.S. Senators Bob Dole and Elizabeth Dole.
More information about YCLI and other Dole Institute offerings can be found at www.doleinstitute.org.
Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics
Youth Civic Leadership Institute
The three-day, two-night program includes a variety of speakers, outings, workshops and brainstorming sessions focusing on the importance of civic engagement in our democracy.
Each Kansas high school is invited to nominate up to two students for the YCLI experience. Students interested in attending YCLI should contact their school counselor or administrator.
Timeline of Application Process
Early March: Application information is mailed to each Kansas high school
April 6: Applications and nomination forms due
Early May: Applicants are notified of acceptance status