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Youth & Government Alumni Discuss Program’s Impact

By: Willow Dalehite

The VIP Luncheon at the Capitol on Friday hosted a variety of potential and current donors, volunteers, and sponsors from school districts statewide. Chessie Reese, State Representative Brooks Landgraf, and District Judge Robert Pitman were interviewed in a discussion panel about their experiences in Texas Youth & Government.

Reese is currently a Plan II Honors student at the University of Texas at Austin, and is additionally majoring in Political Science. Her motivations for continuing with Youth & Government changed throughout her time in the program. “Initially I liked winning awards … but of course that quickly became a minor reason to stay in the program,” she said. “After you realize you’re good at something, it’s a matter of contributing to it, improving it and being improved by the structure of a program as good as this one.”

“I was so struck by how much more informed I was becoming about important issues, how passionate I was becoming about civic engagement, [and] how great it was to meet people from all over the state that I otherwise would have never interacted with and had such different views than me,” Reese said. “I’m so grateful now, not for the trophies and medals … but for the friendships and the connections that we made through this program, and … the values that this program instilled upon my character.”

Representative Landgraf, a graduate of Texas A&M, described the Youth & Government experience as liberating. “I learned early on that this is the first thing that nobody’s really forcing me to do … it was intellectually stimulating, it was rigorous, [and] it was one of the first experiences of my life [when] I realized that you get out of this activity what you put into it,” Landgraf said. “The more I would invest my time and interest in it, the more it was rewarding for me.”

The conference gives students an opportunity to experience the reality of serving the public through participation in government. Judge Pitman, a graduate of Abilene Christian University and the University of Texas School of Law, reflected on this aspect of his time in Youth & Government. “When you grow up and you hear what it must be like to be a lawyer or a state representative … it’s one thing to hear about it and to read about it, but it’s another thing to step on the floor in the House of Representatives and feel what it’s like to sit in the chair …  to walk into a courtroom and for that moment to pretend like you’re a lawyer, or to sit on the bench and think, ‘Wow, this is what it must feel like to judge’ … That experience is something you cannot get anywhere else.”

 

2018-01-27T11:02:49-06:00January 27th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Dress Code Inconsistency Among Delegates

By Gloria Ogunlade

To strangers onlooking this year’s Youth and Government (YAG) State Conference, it would seem to be very clear that YG delegates are young men and women with a purpose. One thing, though, may be unclear or difficult for an onlooker to determine: the dress code.

Youth and Government’s guidelines for business professional dress code include no denim, no midriffs or shoulders showing, proper footwear, and skirts that are no more than 3 inches above the knee for ladies. A majority of delegates at this year’s conference fit that category of business professional attire. However, with the definition of “uniform” being that everyone looks alike, with some students bending the protocol, it can be hard to really say what is right, wrong, fair and unfair when it comes to clothing.

When there are variations in student attire, it usually stems from variations in instruction. If all students are told the YG protocol but not all follow it, there is only one thing left to be questioned: advisor leniency.

“If I see a student out of dress code, I stop them and give them a fix so they can go up to their room and change. I try to do so as respectfully as I can,” director Jenna Struble said.

YAG teaches delegates not only how to speak in a political world, but also how to carry oneself in a professional setting. But like any good student, delegates must be taught first in order to follow rules.

“Students not abiding by the dress code says to me that there is some lack of supervision,” advisor Diane Williams said. “I think it starts with the advisors not adhering to the dress code that we’ve been provided. But it also kind of lowers the expectations and standards that have been sent to us by the YAG organization.”

Most adults have had real world experiences with following guidelines, whether or not it applies to dress regulations.

“It is good that students dress professionally because they are in a business place studying legislature,” State Capitol employee Marilena said. “But in life, it is definitely possible to break rules or at least go around them.”

Although some students slightly tweak appropriate clothing, is not always the intention of the student to appear unprofessional and many can relate to the feeling of just needing some a break sometimes.

“Sometimes when House and Senate get going for two or three hours or you’re running around, you just want to take your jacket off, but you can do it in the restroom or do it outside to always be respectful of the floor,” delegate Taylor Enslin said.

Many advisors agreed that students should still be able to convey their personality and sense of style while not breaking or bending any rules. Expression has never been an issue when it comes to YAG conferences.

“From seeing great floral blazers, to great ties, to great accessories I think there are still great ways to be expressive but within dress code,” Struble said. “Skirt length does not determine a person’s character but we dress to reflect real courtrooms and real House and Senate.”

2018-05-31T07:22:24-05:00January 27th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Role of Justice(s)

By Caden Ziegler

Behind every courtroom door, there is a man or woman dressed in a large black robe wielding a wooden gavel. Deliberating over arguments and evidence presented by attorney’s, they sit atop a platform with the US flag on their right. Not much is different from that this year for the Youth and Government Justices, now that they are in the actual US Federal Courthouse.

The role of a justice has not only been a crucial part of the conferences but also important to the individuals. Allowing delegates to experience the courtroom in a way that is different than most people are able to within the judicial section.   

“It’s been great to be in the Federal Courthouse and the teams are all very good this year, so there is lots of good questioning and discussion going on,” said William Cerny, fourth-time attendee and senior at Highland Park high school. “I did two years as an appellate attorney, then last year I did justicing for appellate… this is my second year justicing. I joined appellate because they allowed me to do a team of two, and that’s what drew me in.”

There were also many new judges at this years conference with similar stories. They had started out as an attorney but ended up in the judge’s bench.

One of such justices was Echo Nattinger, from the Northwest Homeschool delegation. “I went to the district conference in November of last year, this is my first time ever competing in anything like this. This is my first time in a really innovative club,” said Nattinger.

“Funny story, I was trained to be an attorney because there was another person in our time that wanted to be in appellate, so we were going to be an attorney team. That person dropped out, so I had to start training as a judge all by myself.”

“Some of the paperwork that have our scripts… use terminology that we don’t use anymore, so we have to revise it. It’s made some of the rulings a little complicated. Thankfully nothing catastrophic has happened yet.”

Though she admits it was stressful, Nattinger said it gave her “a different perspective on the case as well, because

[she] was trained from both sides.” That being said, according to Nattinger one of the biggest responsibilities of being a judge is trying to remain neutral.

“The judges have read these cases back to forth, they’ve heard every argument. It’s very tempting to determine a verdict before you hear the arguments but you can’t do that.”

Having to switch between arguing one side of the case to having an impartial view is very difficult, but the primary goal of a judge is to “moderate the courtroom, and make sure that everyone is getting their time to speak their arguments.”

Nattinger plans on pursuing government later on in life, and said that she is “very excited” for this experience because it gave her “a lot of insight of what it’s really going to be like.”

2018-05-31T07:22:24-05:00January 26th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Youth and Adults Disagree on Voting Motives

By Johnathan Sheridan

During the voting processes, students claim they are looking deep into the candidate outside of simply their qualifications and experience. However, most adults felt otherwise stating voting was mostly determined by loyalty to their delegation. 

“I’m looking on how you can persuade me into believing you’re worthy of Governor,” said Jasmine Olives, Midland delegation.

Maddy Helton from the Dallas Delegation agreed that she looked for substance in a candidate.

“I’ll vote for a person based how they are as a person,” Helton said.

Adults from numerous delegations, who asked to remain anonymous, claimed the elections were mostly a “popularity contest” determined on the size of delegations.

Dallas and Fort Worth have shared Governor positions for nine out of the last ten years. They are the largest delegations at the Texas Youth and Government State Conferences.

 

2018-05-31T07:22:24-05:00January 26th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Farabee Senate Votes to Remove Religious Exemption for Mandatory Vaccination in Schools

By Christina van Waasbergen

Today the Farabee Senate voted to approve a bill that removes the exemption for the mandatory vaccination of school students in the case of religious or moral opposition. The Farabee House later voted against the bill. The bill mandated that students, regardless of religious objection, must provide proof of vaccination to attend Texas public schools. The bill still allowed private and charter schools to make their own decisions regarding vaccination and did not remove the exemption for students who are not able to be vaccinated due to a medical condition.

Emily Baker, a senior from Keller High School who authored the bill, believes that it would help keep students healthy.

“My bill seeks to make sure that our students are safe, that we are keeping intact herd immunity by having as many kids vaccinated as possible,” Baker said. “If there is a child that cannot have a vaccine due to medical reasons, they need to be protected, and by all of us being protected, we’re in turn protecting the most vulnerable members of our society.”

However, Griffin Smith, a junior from Dripping Springs High School who argued against the bill, believes that it violates religious liberty.

“I was against [the bill] because it destroyed people’s First Amendment rights,” Smith said. He believes that all children have a right to public education and that some students do not have the option to attend a private school or be home-schooled. “I think that education is a right.” Smith said. “Though public schools have many issues with them they are the only education we have that anyone can get. Banning people from public schools is not okay.”

Smith also thinks that vaccines are ineffective. “The real reason that we have immunities is by actually experiencing the disease.” Smith said. “Vaccines have a weak or dead strain, but that only gives you partial immunity.”

2018-01-26T16:31:26-06:00January 26th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Calling All Ages

By Aubrey Burgess

This year’s Youth and Government competition has brought students from all over Texas to compete in different branches of government. The judicial branch competes in the county court which has both civil and criminal cases and applies to the county. The case that judicial is debating for the 2017-18 competition is about age discrimination and whether or not they fired a man because of his age. The teams have to prepare to argue both sides which Rodrigo Padilla, a 9th grader at the International Leadership of Texas Keller-Saginaw High School (KHS), says is difficult “because you have to focus on time management when practicing and really work on rebutting information.”

Kaimen Goudy, a senior at KHS said, “I was introduced to Youth & Government in middle school and interested in law … they had a club where they said you get to be a pretend lawyer or a pretend witness, so I joined.”

She was hooked from the start and has participated in Youth and Government ever since. Her team has been preparing for this state competition for 3 months now and they feel ready.

“My team is very united together, which is so great, but two people from our team have gotten sick right before the trip so we are all taking on extra roles last minute … I think that we are going to do good,” Kaimen said.  

At the team’s district competition they won three out of four of their cases but still received a low score which put them in County Court. Padilla says, “My favorite thing about County Court is that it is easier and a lot less stressful.” County Court, although smaller than District Court, gets to debate in multiple ballrooms in the Renaissance Hotel, where all of the Youth and Government participants are staying over the three-day conference. The District Court goes to the Capitol to debate in an actual courtroom. At both of these events, there is a student judge who presides over the courtroom and at least two attorneys per team. Every team also has witnesses who act out their character. “I chose to be a witness because I really like drama or theatre, and I feel like this is a good way to express it,” said Padilla, a witness. They spend about a year working on getting their teams ready which means memorizing the part of the witness, practicing the argument from both sides, and practicing head to head with another team. “I was awful at being a witness, but they questioned me so many times, and while it was annoying at times, they have done so much to make me ready and prepared; I don’t want to disappoint them,” said Padilla.

The case that they are working on is about a man over 40 years old who works at a company named 4C’s, a food service company. He became the general manager and was very good at it, until the defendant transferred 3 of the plaintiff’s territories to another worker with no explanation or warning. When the company consolidated, they fired the plaintiff saying it was going to save the company money. Before they fired him, they had made many comments about his age, and how the company “needed new blood.” The Plaintiff sued for age discrimination because according to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, “It shall be unlawful for an employer to … discharge any individual … because of such individual’s age.” The participants of the competition thought the case was interesting, but could have had a little bit more action. Padilla said, “I enjoyed working on the case, a murder case would’ve been really cool, but it is still great and I have a lot of fun doing it or else I wouldn’t be here.”

“I feel like my team is pretty prepared. I am really prepared; I have been studying for a year,” said Padilla. The team won the first round, against an opposing team from Moody High School. During the case, the KHS team competed as the defense, and Moody High represented the plaintiff. The plaintiff gave the opening and said, “It should be unlawful that any company should fire an individual because of their age.” The plaintiff then called Allison Young to the witness stand who was also fired and hasn’t been able to find a job since. Then the defense crossed saying that Allison Young has already lied in her testimony because in her affidavit she said that the defendant asked for everyone’s birthdays because of a special birthday bonus that was to be awarded to employees on their birthdays. The debate continued with multiple other witnesses that the defendant then cross-examined. When the defendant gave their opening remarks they said, “This is not a case about any discrimination or injustice just corporate business and making the best decision for the company.” They proved this by cross-examining and asking their witnesses questions that supported the defendant’s case. By the end of round one, the judge found that the defendant was not guilty. “It is really rewarding to hear the judge’s decision be in your favor,” said Goudy.

2018-01-26T15:18:35-06:00January 26th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Bill Proposes Horror Film Plot as National Holiday

By: Auyana Aird

A lot of people know “The Purge” as a thriller movie about the government legalizing crime, including murder, for a 12 hour period. People in the movie struggle to survive at night while trying not to turn into monsters like the ones they are striving to avoid.

Alyssa Jones from the Northpark YMCA created a bill to legalize the holiday of The Purge and declaring it an emergency. She was unable to present her bill today because she was chairing another committee room.

“This really says something [about] Youth and Government as a total,” said legislative delegate Jace Woody. “Chairs can’t really propose their own bills, and that generally is really disappointing. I think that we should have a system that would allow it.”

If a victim of the Purge dies after the Purge has ended due to harm done before the Purge has concluded, the aggressor shall not be charged with their death.

“On the whole Purge bill idea, I don’t know if it’s necessarily feasible, I mean we’ve seen it in movies, but whether or not it would benefit society even though I haven’t seen the bill being presented, the concept doesn’t seem good,”said legislative delegate Olivia Sirchio.

Not a single delegate in committee room agreed with the proposed topic.

2018-01-26T15:08:35-06:00January 26th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Appellate Case Based on Age Discrimination

By: Camille Pfister

The US Federal Courthouse, where the Appellate Court was held, was full of young men and women working diligently on their case. All of the delegates are working on the same case, but different sides. The sides were assigned and the delegates are memorizing and discussing how to best defend their side. After their first session, they will switch sides. The case for this year’s conference is a civil case, different than past years. This case includes age discrimination and suing. Ageism is the unfair treatment of someone based on age. It is mostly placed against teenagers and older people. In this case, a past employee of a company is suing that company for wrongful termination based off of allegations of ageism.

“I will make three points. One, that O’Callahan

[The Defendant] was not performing well. Two, that due to restructuring, O’Callahan’s job was eliminated and the statements made by Mr. Williams are irrelevant in this case. […] There was no job available and so he was eliminated.” One of the Petition attorneys, Adelaide Zink of the Fort Worth YMCA Delegation, said in her opening statement.

The Judge of the case asks questions and makes the attorneys clarify the statements they made. The attorneys are quick on their feet and respond within a few seconds of the question proposed. Each attorney has 15 minutes to state their point, including responding to any questions the Judge may ask. After both attorneys speak on the Petition side, the Respondent side has their chance to state their case with 15 minutes per attorney.

“At the time of O’Callahan’s termination, Mr. O’Callahan was 56, Mr. Kizer was 35, and Mr. Jones, 30. This proves that Mr. O’Callahan was replaced by someone of a younger age. They were both under the age of 40 while he was over the age of 40. Even if they had to terminate O’Callahan’s position, they could have trained him in another position.” Jessie Garcia of the Dallas Delegation, an attorney for the Respondent side said in her defense.

After both sides state their case, the Judge calls a recess and reviews the case. There is a few minutes before the Judge returns and the verdict is called. In this case, the verdict went in favor of the Petition. This case includes a topic that has been a hot-button issue in recent years, ageism. The side of the defendant, Mr. O’Callahan, is trying to prove that the company fired him because he reached a certain age. While the company is saying there was a real reason to fire him and the claim isn’t valid. 

 

2018-05-31T07:22:24-05:00January 26th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

The New Age of Entrepreneurship

By Briana Taylor

CEO and Founder of 1-800-CONTACTS spoke to the 2018 Youth and Government Delegates about entrepreneurship and the importance of taking risks during convocation Thursday evening. 

Jonathan Coon, CEO and Founder of 1-800-CONTACTS, is no stranger to risk. As a young college student, Coon established the contact delivery service in his dorm room with only $50 capital. Over time, he has been able to watch his company grow to become one of the largest suppliers of contact lenses in the United States. Coon accredits the company’s success to their excellent customer service, and the idea that if they take care of their employees, those employees will, in turn, take care of the customers. This philosophy has proven effective, as seen by the company’s incredible success since its start in 1995.

At the commencement of the 2018 YMCA Youth and Government State Conference, delegates were fortunate enough to have Coon attend the Opening Ceremony as the keynote speaker. Coon spoke about how he started his company, the rocky times along the way and his brother’s well-known film “Napoleon Dynamite”. Coon addressed the crowd with a message of encouragement and advocated for the possibility of the impossible. 

Coon’s message clearly impacted those in attendance, and it soon became apparent that the keynote speaker inspired a spirit of ambition in many of the students – ambition that they hope will one day change the world.

“He reminded me a lot of myself,” said Hannah Garcia, senior at Hays High School. “His humor is very similar to mine, and he made me realize that I can do anything I put my mind to, however far-fetched it may be.”

Coinciding with Coon’s message of entrepreneurship and perseverance, delegates were encouraged to think about what entrepreneurship meant to them personally.

“I think it means taking anything that you see the world needs and making it happen,” said Jillian Smith, senior at Duncanville High School.

Coon’s message revolved around the idea of taking risks, making connections, and understanding our legal system – three ideas that are similar to the duty of Youth and Government delegates. Coon’s speech encouraged delegates to utilize these ideas this weekend as they head into the 2018 Youth and Government conference.

 

2018-05-31T07:22:24-05:00January 26th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Handing Down The Torch

By: Keely Smith  

Arguably Youth and Government’s most involved and supportive member is Jordan Clements, a senior delegate from Jack C. Hays High School. Last year Clements was voted in and chosen by more than 500 of his fellow delegates to hold the position of Lieutenant Governor. However, becoming popular among his youth members did not happen overnight. Clements has ‘been participating in Youth and Government since

[his] seventh-grade year.” Throughout his six-year involvement in this organization, he has made many accomplishments of both personal and organization-wide value.

He stated “Youth and Government has been a real life-changing experience for me” ultimately resulting in his “love for the organization.” Participating in Youth and Government aided in his development of essential social skills. This pushed him to come out of his shell, something that was harder for him in the past as he was more introverted.  

Not only has he learned how to socialize, but also, the concept of campaigning and the power of speech, aspects that are at the heart of YG. Clemens also said, despite popular belief, “I don’t want to be a career politician,” but rather an “economics professor and get my PhD.” He went on to say that he then plans on becoming a state representative, work his way up to governor, and then go from there.

Although he is excited to see what the near future holds for him, he is sad to see his time come to an end here at Youth and Government. He described having to hand down the torch of Lieutenant Governor to someone new as “a little scary because most of the candidates are from the judicial branch this year,” as opposed to last year, most people being from legislative.  

On a lighter note, Clements said he “will need to find a new handle for [his] twitter, which will be hard because all of the good ones are taken.” This poses a concern for him because of his hard work and dedication to his position, and he hates to lose the title.

Knowing that someone will be taking over Lieutenant Governor within the next two days, Clements gave some final words of advice from his year spent in office. The first thing that jumped to mind was “to have as much fun as possible.” He went on to say “The reason why people called me the LIT gov. was because I had fun with it.”

Concluding his time at this year’s conference, Clements shared his most memorable experience as Lieutenant Governor. Stating his most memorable experience was at “the Oklahoma Conference” where he got to create new relationships, debate topics like the Oklahoma state song, and become closer with his fellow officers. He went as far as saying that officers “Noell and Asha are two of [his] closest friends now.

2018-05-31T07:22:28-05:00January 26th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments