CHARLESTON -- Illinois' next generation of leaders heard a presentation Thursday from current Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, whose father -- U.S. Sen. Paul Simon -- was a prominent Illinois leader of his generation.

Simon encouraged her audience of approximately 400 incoming high school seniors at the 74th Session of Illini Girls State to talk to leaders from previous generations about their experiences but to not to get "stuck there" in the past and to instead focus on the future.

Today's young women live in a time in which females have broken through barriers to rise to top state and federal leadership positions, Simon said. This has created tremendous opportunities for the next generation of leaders, she said.

"Focus on what you can do if you are engaged in the political process," Simon told her audience in Dvorak Auditorium at Eastern Illinois University, which is hosting Illini Girls State once again. The American Legion Auxiliary annually sponsors this camp, which helps participants learn about leadership, patriotism, and the election process

Simon, who had spoken at Illini Girls State once before since taking office in 2011, said one of the issues she has focused on as lieutenant governor is helping the victims of domestic battery and sexual assualt.

For example, Simon said she worked with state Sen. Toi Hutchinson and other state leaders to get a new tax enacted on alcohol sales at strip clubs, with 100 percent of the revenue going to rape crisis centers.

In addition, Simon said her office has helped launch a Virtual Legal Clinic program to connect victims of domestic violence with legal advice via video conferencing.

"There are not enough lawyers to go around, particularly for someone who has a low income," Simon said of the need for this program.

Simon, who is running for the Illinois comptroller position, said she also is focusing on finding ways to help remove the financial barriers that prevent low income students from getting a higher education.

The lieutenant governor encouraged her audience at Illini Girls State to not create additional barriers to their higher education by taking a "math vacation" from mathematics courses during their senior year in high school. She said a "math vacation" ill equips incoming freshmen for college-level courses.

Simon urged her audience to pursue a higher education because it is a great investment for their future and the future of Illinois. She said they have the opportunity to make a positive change in their lives and the world around them.

"I very much want to see you make that change. Best of luck and congratulations to you," Simon said.

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