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IMSA students get insight into creating change

Gayle Deja-Schultz Northern Illinois University student gives keynote address IMSA sophomores about her her classmates' work with Rep. Kay Hatcher

Gayle Deja-Schultz, a Northern Illinois University student, gives a keynote address to IMSA sophomores about her and her classmates' work with Rep. Kay Hatcher (bottom left) on HB 180, a bill that will increase the buffer zone between protesters and grieving military families at funerals in Illinois. IMSA sophomores are involved in a year-long learning experience centered around social change. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 24, 2012 11:26PM

AURORA — Kent Gang speaks about change with socially aware maturity.

Gang, a sophomore at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora, is one of more than 200 IMSA classmates who could be making change.

“We should do things that we care about,” said Gang, 15, from Vernon Hills. “We should try to enact change.”

Change could be a reality through EnACT, an IMSA program that equips the school’s sophomores to draft a bill on a chosen topic — and possibly see it approved in the Illinois legislature.

“It’s an opportunity for students to explore and have some hands-on learning outside of a traditional classroom,” said Linsey Crowninshield, assistant director of Student Life at IMSA.

Last week, students heard political perspective from state Rep. Kay Hatcher, a Yorkville Republican; Jack King, Northern Illinois University sociology professor; and Gayle Deja-Schultz, an NIU student.

IMSA students learned how King’s sociology class worked on a measure to limit protests at military funerals.

Deja-Schultz had been King’s student and an intern to Hatcher, who sponsored the bill in the Illinois House.

The measure sought to keep protesters 1,000 feet away from military funerals. The bill that eventually passed set the limit at 300 feet.

Hatcher spoke to the IMSA students about the reality of legislation.

“No bill is perfect,” Hatcher said. “But a bill that is possible will become a law.

Making bills

The IMSA students divided into groups to work on their creating their own bills.

Nine classes of about 25 sophomores gathered in different classrooms to work on topics like science and math education, tax reform, gambling expansion, food deserts, cycle of poverty and higher education.

A group working on the cycle of poverty — a means to end continual poverty — plugged away at laptops.

Gang said that one part of his group’s cycle of poverty bill would require a pharmacy to have a pharmacist available in a 24-hour period to provide emergency contraceptives to patrons.

“It’s really interesting how there are a lot of things that we learn at school,” Gang said. “But only certain programs like EnACT actually allow us to apply our skills for something practical.”

Kieran Groble, 15, a sophomore from Lake Zurich, worked with Gang on the measure.

“You can write as many laws as you want,” Groble said. “But where real change comes from is people acting on them and real motivation.”

King had one class ponder any connections they might have to people of influence.

“Think about who you know to get your legislation in place,” King said.

Deja-Schultz gave pointers to students who wondered how to make their higher education bill better.

“Ask for what you want…” Deja-Schultz said. “Go for what you think is right, what you believe is right.”

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