Children’s at the capitol: The Youth Advisory Council goes to Saint Paul

Governors reception room web 

It’s never too early to get involved with the policy issues that make a difference in your life and the lives of those around you. At Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, our Advocacy and Health Policy team works to engage our employees, patients and families to speak out about health policies that impact our ability to provide high-quality pediatric care in our state and region.

This week, several of our Youth Advisory Council (YAC) members made the trek to Saint Paul (through snow and cold weather, no less!) to talk with state legislators about their experiences at Children’s. Here’s a photo diary of the day.

An intro to state policy

Our group arrived at the state capitol first thing in the morning to receive some basic training about how to talk with legislators and to hear their schedule for the day. We focused on the importance of sharing your family’s experience in the hospital because hearing these stories, especially from constituents; really help our legislators to understand the impacts of the policy decisions before them. After our welcome session, the group was ready to start exploring the state capitol.

 Group photo beginning of day web

And they’re off…

Not more than a few minutes after we left our meeting room, the group ran into Representative Nick Zerwas, himself a former patient at Children’s. This chance meeting in the halls of the capitol was a perfect lesson in being ready to talk about your story at any moment.

Group meets Rep Zerwas 3 web

Getting to know our leaders

From there the group set off to meet with Speaker of the House, Representative Paul Thissen, and Majority Leader, Representative Erin Murphy. Despite having been in session for most of the previous night, both were back at work early the next morning.

In speaker Thissen’s office, Aly, a member on YAC for the past six years and a constituent in Representative Thissen’s district, talked about her younger siblings, whose serious health conditions required prolonged stays in the hospital.

Mason, a YAC member for three years, also talked about his Eagle Scout project. He designed and built model MRI machines to help kids understand what it would be like when going in for their scans.

Meeting with Rep Thissen 2 web

We also briefly heard from Representative Murphy, who was en route to a press conference when we saw her. She talked with our group about how important it is for young people to get involved in policy from an early age. Youth are often impacted by decisions made at the capitol, so it’s essential to ensure their voices are heard.

Erin Murphy web

A personal tour of the House Floor

Sometimes it’s all about being in the right place at the right time. Our group was able to meet Representative Frank Hornstein, who gave us a tour of the House Floor—something not many people ever get to experience!

House floor 3 web

The tour of the floor, where members of the House of Representatives debate the bills that are brought to a vote, wasn’t complete until the YAC members took to the Speaker of the House’s platform and tried out the gavel for themselves.

House floor 11 web

It’s a wrap

To finish out the day, our YAC members met with Senator Jeff Hayden, who represents the part of Minneapolis where our hospital is located. There, YAC member Espen gave the Senator a diaper used for premature babies as a tool to help legislators understand the kind of critical care Children’s provides.

Sen Hayden 4 web

You can be an advocate, too!

If the Youth Advisory Council visit to the capitol inspired you to get active on policy, please consider joining our Children’s Advocacy list! We’ll keep you up-to-date on the policies that affect kids’ health and the care we provide at Children’s plus let you know when you have an opportunity to impact policy decisions.