9/11 sets youth on a political course

DeWayne Bartels

Burl Rolett was in fifth grade when planes hijacked by terrorists slammed into New York City’s Twin Towers, shattering the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

The images from that day left a deep impression on the youth, sparking a desire to be a leader in the world of politics.

“The events of 9/11 opened my eyes that there were things going on outside my little world,” Rolett, 17, said, last week at Peoria Heights High School.

“It got me interested in getting involved.”

Today, not quite seven years later, Rolett is entering his senior year in high school, and the impressions left by 9/11 are still so strong he is embarking on what could be the start of a political career.  This fall, he will become the first student in the history of Peoria Heights   to enter the Illinois Governmental Internship Program.

Rolett will live in Springfield and be assigned to a legislator, where he will work alongside the legislator and staffers. The internship will offer him a look behind the scenes.

“Seeing it first hand and being where the decisions are made will be exciting,” he said.

Rolett said he hopes his assigned legislator will be Aaron Schock (R-Peoria). Rolett admits to being a bit starstruck by Schock.

“He’s a shooting star,” Rolett said.

Rolett said the road to the internship was tough, but it is a dream come true.

“This is something I did of my own initiative. It’s what I want to do with my life,” he said.

“This is going to be a great experience at seeing the inner workings of politics.”

Brignadello said she bought into the idea right away.

“I love to see our kids pursue new things,” she said.

“I’m excited for him. I’ve been in education 35 years and I love to see our young people get the opportunity to do something that will challenge them. I love being their advocate.”

Brignadello said this program will offer Rolett the opportunity to develop valuable skills for his career path.

“We have to encourage these kids. I’m putting my money on Burl.”

Brignadello said she has no doubt this experience will help Rolett develop into a even more seasoned leader.

“I think Burl is already a gentle, quiet leader. He is a person others look up to and admire,” she said.

Rolett said this will give him the opportunity to see politics up close.

“I want to be in the political arena. I’m not sure I want to be an elected politician, but I know I want to be the guy behind the candidate,” he said.