Flashback Blog: Finding My Voice in Legislation

This week’s Flashback Blog was written in 2020 by Emma O., a Drummers alumni. Emma is currently a student at Bowdoin College. She is still exploring and deciding on her college major but has an interest in Environmental Studies as well as Government and Legal Studies. Emma spent this past summer on a remote island in Canada completing a forestry research fellowship. She focused on the potential impact of moss forest floor substrate on conifer seedling recruitment.

Over the summer, I gained the wonderful opportunity of being appointed to the Pennsylvania Governor’s Youth Council for Hunting, Fishing, and Conservation. The goal of this group is to advise state departments on conservation legislation from a youthful perspective, as well as to educate and involve our peers across the Commonwealth in environmental preservation. I have always been passionate about the environment and conserving its natural resources, but upon becoming a member of this organization, this spark was fanned into a burgeoning flame.

A group photo of Youth Council Members, our Director, and the Executive Director of the PA Game Commission.

My favorite aspect of becoming an appointee of the Governor’s Youth Council is the opportunity to improve my public speaking skills. Though I have always been an outgoing person, I have found it difficult to speak powerfully in front of large groups of people. Luckily, the Governor’s Youth Council frequently provides excellent chances for its members to improve upon this ability. For example, at each of our quarterly meetings, we participate in active discussion of important issues across the state and must voice our opinions and plans moving forward. Aside from our regular meetings, we often attend legislative events, such as the signing of Senate Bill 147, allowing Sunday Hunting in Pennsylvania. Recently, though, I was provided the opportunity to speak about the Saturday Deer Opener at the Game Commission, an event that afforded me great growth in my public speaking skills.

To prepare for our presentation at the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s public hearing on the Saturday Opener, we first surveyed the Council to create a consensus. To ensure that the entire group was properly represented, we created a survey to measure opinions and to gather points for our written and oral remarks. Eventually, we decided on a majority opinion. After that, it was time to develop our presentation!

The Youth Council picked myself and a member named Jackson to present at the Game Commission. I was extremely excited–not only for the opportunity of presenting at a prestigious organization, but also to develop my public speaking skills. I prepared my written and oral remarks and practiced profusely until the day of the presentation arrived.

As I entered the Pennsylvania Game Commission, any nerves I had previously felt were washed away by the contagious energy the building exuded; hunters, conservationists, and professionals milled around the building, eager to be represented in such an important issue. I watched citizens present, one after the other, as the meeting started. They were full of confidence and they powerfully presented their message. Watching them stand at the podium to deliver their remarks gave me more confidence.

A picture of my testimony.

Finally, as my turn came around, I stood tall at the podium to share my opinions on behalf of the Youth Council. I actually found it quite invigorating to be speaking in front of a large group of people this time because of how passionate I was about the topic at hand. I knew that I was knowledgeable; this understanding carried over into the firmness of my message. I was so excited and happy!

A picture of Jackson’s testimony.

This opportunity gave me a glimpse into the world of environmental legislation and policy. I now understand how one must be comfortable speaking in front of large groups in order to more effectively spread their message Now, I am able to say that I feel confident sharing my message about environmental conservation!

The photos used in this blog belong to the author.