Civic Engagement and Advocacy in Rural Wisconsin: Youth Development Through Legislative Forums


  • Doug Liphart University of Wisconsin-Madison, Division of Extension
  • Neil James Klemme University of Wisconsin-Madison, Division of Extension
  • Ian B. Meeker University of Wisconsin-Madison, Division of Extension



civic engagement, social capital, civic skills, youth–adult partnerships


Youth Development programming that engages youth to work side by side with local leaders creates an environment where youth develop civic skills. These skills include a greater understanding of the legislative process, their role in our democracy, and increased engagement in the democratic process. Through their participation in the Superior Days Legislative Forum, youth increase their civic skills, are inspired to create change in their communities, ask questions and respond to challenges by bringing legislative issues of concern unique to their community to the entire representative body at the state capitol. Youth delegates also gain experience partnering with adults from their communities, establish healthy developmental relationships, and expand their social networks. This article draws from research related to civic engagement, youth in decision-making roles, and programming intended to raise youth voice to make community change. This paper uses focus group interviews as well as post-then-pre-program surveys to understand the impact of the Superior Days Legislative Forum on youth participants.

Author Biographies

Doug Liphart, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Division of Extension

Doug is a Professor with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Division of Extension. His programming focuses on building future leaders with strong character. Highlights from his programming include a restorative justice program, leadership programming in a variety of classroom, community and outdoor settings, as well as strong partnerships with the tribal communities within his county. 

Neil James Klemme, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Division of Extension

Neil is currently Associate Professor with Tenure with the University of Wisconsin Extension Institute of Positive Youth Development . His programming focusses on Youth Engagement in community leadership, youth in governance programming and community development initiatives.He uses placemaking principles to help youth understand the needs of their community and to build a stronger connection to the communities they live in.

Ian B. Meeker, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Division of Extension

Ian is an Associate Professor for the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Division of Extension.  Ian’s area of Academic focus within the Institute of Positive Youth Development is Outdoor Leadership Education. He can be found on the south shore of Lake Superior integrating leadership development and an appreciation for the natural world through kayaking, mountain biking, canoeing and cross country skiing.


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