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Zachary Dougherty Establishes the FirstNJ Legislative Youth Council

Zachary Dougherty, a junior majoring in history and political science with a concentration in international relations, is already making a difference in the political and governmental world by recently establishing the New Jersey Legislative Youth Council. In particular, he drafted and authored the legislation’s institutional framework, mission statement, and its responsibilities.

The New Jersey Legislative Youth Council is a forum for New Jersey’s youth to advise the Legislature and all of its committees, commissions, and task forces on their needs, opinions, and welfare for all youth in New Jersey. The Council would identify and implement effective policies, programs, and services that the State could provide its youth.

Some issues that the council will focus on include civics education; drugs and substance abuse; emotional and physical health; employment and economic opportunities; environmental protection; gun violence and school safety; and safe environments for youth among many others. Dougherty said, “I expect the council’s membership will reflect a diverse difference in opinions, backgrounds, and personalities. My goal is to serve as the council’s first executive chair, in an effort to set a model precedent for how this council will conduct itself with the utmost civility and statesmanship.”

When looking at other states and their legislative action amongst youth, he questioned why New Jersey didn’t have a similar forum. The law and council represents a bipartisan commitment to empowering the state’s youngest citizens.

Being at Monmouth for three years now, there is no doubt that our university has helped shape Dougherty and allow him to be where he is today. Dougherty said, “Monmouth University has expanded my perceptions and understanding of the world around me. You learn so much from just listening to the opinions expressed by other students and faculty. The heart of our republic and democratic institutions rely on the ability to have civil discourse with those we disagree with. Monmouth is a safe place to exercise academic debate and I hope to transfer that level of respect to the council.”

Of course, he couldn’t do this all on his own. Dougherty credits professors such as Dr. Veit, Dr. Chapman, and Dr. Patten with aiding in his journey at Monmouth as well as in government and politics.
It was Joseph Patten, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Political Science & Department Chair, who congratulated Dougherty for his work in creating the NJ Legislative Youth Council. Pattern said, “Zachary is a natural choice to lead in this effort because he understands how important it is to bring people together and to raise political awareness in college aged students.”

Stephen Chapman, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Political Science, said that Dougherty was always a dedicated student that aimed to use the information learned in the classroom in order to make an impact on the world. Chapman said “ I think his accomplishments should serve as a model for other students aspiring to enact change.”

On top of this great achievement, Dougherty co-founded The March for Our Lives, which he described as a challenging yet rewarding experience. He said, “I learned how special it is to build a coalition of young people when our elected officials are apathetic to the dangers of our generation. Our system does in fact provide the opportunity to enact tangible change, but it requires a tremendous commitment by those willing to listen and compromise.”

With the issues our generation faces, Dougherty’s work with March for Our Lives and the Legislative Youth Council offers our youth a voice. Being in this position, as a student, shows the University community—and the rest of the country—that any young person has the ability and opportunity to be heard and make a change.

Dougherty discussed ideas of how students on our campus who are interested in the issues being addressed by the New Jersey Legislative Youth Council can get involved. He recommends using social media as a means to speak out and influence public opinion, and to become more than a spectator by attending local or state meetings or simply email, call, or physically meet with your elected representatives. Know who their key staffers are and build relationships with the people who influence decisions.

Dougherty leaves students with this advice: “If you’re crazy enough to think you can change the world, you’re exactly who the world needs.”