High school students lead charge on environmental change in the capitol

Local News

PONTIAC, Ill. (WCIA) — Most bills are written in the halls of the capitol. Not many are written in the halls of a high school, but this week, Keagan Hall and Emilie Collins — recent graduates of Pontiac High School — passed legislation out of committee.

“We started working on it. And then suddenly, we just got the idea. Let’s let’s create a taskforce. Let’s make this happen for Illinois,” Collins said.

Hall and Collin’s bill creates an environmental task force with one goal in mind — conserving 30 percent of the land in Illinois by 2030. That’s a huge jump from the three percent Illinois is required to conserve now. The two made their case to a senate committee, and it passed unanimously.

“We may be just be high schoolers, Hall said. “But we can do something if we really want to, and we can get people on board with us if we just speak our minds and do what we are passionate about.”

This legislation started as a final project idea for Paul Ritter’s environmental science class at Pontiac High School. Ritter has seen a lot of impressive projects over the years, but this one tops all the others.

“These kids are amazing. And I knew it. The moment they started and said, this is what we’re going to do. Here’s what you need to think about,” Ritter said.

Two spots on the task force are reserved for Hall and Collins. Even though they will be going to college in a few months, they want to make sure young people’s voices are heard.

“Like the proverb said, we are not inheriting this world, we are borrowing it from the next generation,” Collins said. “So we have to give the future generation, not only my generation, but the future generation, to have as much of a say as we do, or nothing is going to change. It’s there world, not ours.”

For Ritter, seeing his students succeed like this is what the job is all about.

“It was critical that they nailed their mark. And not only they nailed it, they surpassed it. And that’s what’s amazing. That’s a great feeling you can get as a teacher. It’s the greatest feeling in the world.”

The bill already passed unanimously through the house. It now heads to the senate floor.

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