Yearly Archives: 2018


School Profile: Akins High School

In honor of the 2018-2019 program year kicking off this fall, we’ll be featuring some of our YG clubs and their exciting accomplishments on our blog over the next few weeks.  First up in our new school profile series:  Akins High School in the Austin District!  Thanks to Mr. Armin Salek for sharing his and his club’s experiences.

As an advisor, what initially drew you to YG?  What keeps you motivated to support your students in the program?

Our school has been involved in YG Mock Trial for several years now, and it’s actually one of the reasons why I joined Akins. As an attorney, I wish I had the opportunity to get courtroom experience at their age. Now, I get to help high school students learn concepts that I didn’t get introduced to until I was almost a decade older than them. This is such a big advantage for our students, especially because they are in a law academy, and many of them are aspiring attorneys. They learn real legal applications while developing the soft skills that they can use regardless of the industry they choose in the future. And it’s fun! We spent three months preparing for the District and State competitions, and every single day I expected the students to burn out and get tired of all the work that goes into it.  Instead, they were engaged, excited, and enthusiastic.

Share some of your club’s proudest YG-related accomplishments.

The students would probably say that the proudest moment was earning fifth place at State Conference in county mock trial. They worked hard and earned the first-ever top ten placement for our school. For me, expanding the program is something that I’m very proud of. We grew from one mock trial team to three this year, and we welcomed underclassmen for the first time. Our team of freshmen ranked in the top ten at the local competition and qualified for the District Court mock trial competition at State. We are all very excited to improve from this year and to keep adding more teams as we get more students involved.

What topics are your students most passionate about?

Immigration and criminal justice reform are two topics that the students are very passionate about. Whenever these subjects come up in class, the students are dialed in, engaged, and very open to sharing their ideas. A major contributor to that is the fact that these two issues have touched on so many of their lives. Especially immigration. We have students that are here on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) waiting for updates to see if they will be allowed to stay here long enough to finish high school. We have a large number of Hispanic students that are hearing daily sound bites coming from politicians about how folks like them are impacting this country. And while some family members may end up cut off from their relatives by a wall, others are sitting behind bars. Unfortunately, the number of students that have been impacted by a loved one’s incarceration is very high as well. Regardless of the circumstances, these students have so much love for their family members, so addressing these topics is a major concern of theirs.

What are some of the club’s goals for the 2018-2019 program year?

Now that I’m no longer a YG rookie coach and we have a returning group of fantastic team members, I would love to see us grow to even more mock trial teams and possibly add other sections. The appellate section is something that I have experience with and think the team would enjoy. For some of our returning team members, we may try to prepare as judges as well. We are definitely trying to increase our involvement and keep improving regardless of what we are competing in.

Looking forward to seeing what Akins does in 2018/2019!

2018-08-07T14:24:20-05:00August 7th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

2018-2019 Officer Profiles: Meet Your Print Editor-in-Chief!

At State Conferences last January and February, YMCA Texas Youth and Government students elected a new slate of officers to serve them during the 2018-2019 program year.  We’ll be featuring an interview with each officer on our blog in upcoming weeks.  Next up: Print Editor-in-Chief Gloria Ogunlade!  Earlier this month, Gloria represented Texas YG and Duncanville High School at the Conference on National Affairs in North Carolina.  Above, she is pictured with her fellow media delegates (far right, bottom row).

Share a little about your experience providing media coverage at CONA.  What stands out about the experience?

Being a part of the media team at CONA, I got to experience all the life-changing spirit of the Blue Ridge Mountains while also participating in the most realistic coverage I’ve ever been a part of. I had the opportunity to work with facilitators with years of experience in the field that shared the same love of politics and story-telling news. The content we were able to put out at CONA was extremely professional, so it was great for me personally because I was able to learn and take away many tools from my week on the Mountain. Spending the majority of the day with other media delegates, I was able to learn about other YG media programs and make lifelong friendships. While there are countless things that made CONA such a unique experience for me, I’d say these new relationships and strong bonds I made with delegates I’d spent less than a week with are what stand out the most.

What draws you to print media over other forms?

To me, print media allows for the most in-depth coverage– stories can be as long and detailed as necessary. Print media can also present more of a challenge because it is more difficult to get people to be engaged with longer articles or blogs, but being able to present a good story from all angles makes it worth it and makes me proud of the final product.

What is your favorite content that you have created for YG media thus far and why?

My favorite content I’ve created for YG media would have to be a delegate profile I wrote for CONA on my friend and fellow delegate (Jariah Cole — read here!). It was fun and interesting for me to construct because it was a story that was somewhat personal for me, and it was important to me to highlight my friend and shine light on her achievements.

Besides CONA, what else is keeping you busy this summer?

Following CONA, I went on a roadtrip and was able to tour some out-of-state colleges. For the rest of my summer, I plan on hanging out with my friends, participating in as much community service as possible, and also doing a lot of studying for my SAT and ACT to prepare for a very busy senior year right around the corner.

2018-07-24T13:07:02-05:00July 24th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

CONA 2018 Adventures and Updates

We hope y’all had a fantastic Independence Day!  Our delegates at CONA celebrated early by cheering on Anastasia Sotiropoulos (Dallas), Sharif Long (Dallas), and Aayush Dave (Houston) during Tuesday’s Third Committees and enjoying a holiday dance that night.  On July 4th, our Texas delegates impressed during General Assemblies.  The authors of 18 of the top 30 proposals present during the Heaton and Washburn General Assemblies the Wednesday of CONA. Jordan Clements, Anastasia Sotiropoulos, Evan Vollbrecht, and Diomarvellous Nsofor gave Pro/Con Intent Speeches during Washburn, and Dylan Cousins spoke up in Heaton.  Outside these planned speeches, other Texas delegates raised their voices including Christina van Waasbergen, Kate Schulle, and Madison Dillon.  Our students calculated that Texas delegates took a whopping 22% of the General Assembly Pro/Con speaking opportunities!

Our delegates had some free time Wednesday afternoon.  Some chose to swim while others went on a hike in the mountains surrounding Blue Ridge or went on a tour of the historic Biltmore Estate.  Even those delegates who did not participate in the hike have gotten a true taste of nature at CONA this year.  We are keeping a safe distance, but we have had many bear sightings!  Check out the picture below.

Today, all CONA attendees are in Plenary Session.  The top 12 proposals overall, including Sharif Long’s proposal “To increase campus-wide approaches to address the college mental health crisis in America,” advance to this final proposal presentation event.  Michael Brown and Rajpal Bal had a chance to offer Pro/Con comments during Plenary earlier today.  Sharif is expected to present around 3:15 p.m. CST and has the honor of closing the conference.  To tune in, visit the CONA live stream page.  YG supporters can also watch tonight’s closing award ceremony starting at 6:00 p.m. CST.

We’re proud of all our CONA delegates!

2018-07-05T13:48:28-05:00July 5th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

CONA 2018 Begins!

Hello from Black Mountain, NC!  Texas YG has just kicked off the Conference on National Affairs (CONA) with our delegation of 24 outstanding students.  After training in Austin Friday night, the delegation arrived at scenic YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly on Saturday.  Delegates have come to CONA to present their proposals describing social problems and outlining solutions on a variety of topics such as mental health on college campuses, the opioid crisis, voting reform, homelessness in major U.S. cities, and school safety. They had a first chance to share these proposals with delegates from other states during Proposal Sharing Groups Saturday night.  Jariah Cole and Jonathan Forseth each chaired a Proposal Sharing Group.

On Sunday, delegates enjoyed the Opening Ceremony and took part in First Committee Hearings.  During each round of Committee Hearings, delegates engage in debate and discuss the pros and cons of their own and other delegates’ proposals, suggesting amendments to proposals as appropriate and following parliamentary procedure throughout.  They score one another’s proposals, and a specified number of the highest scoring proposals from each Committee Hearing advance to the next round.  All delegates gather on the final day of CONA to discuss the 12 highest-ranked proposals in a Plenary Session.  First Committee Hearings wrapped up Monday morning, and delegates will participate in Second Committee Hearings this afternoon and evening.  We are celebrating all our delegates including Sharif Long, Alysha Orbach, Aayush Dave, and Anastasia Sotiropoulos who earned leadership positions in Hearing Committees, Conference Life Committee, and Round Tables. We are also thrilled for our delegates whose proposals have advanced to the Second Committee Hearings: Dani Smith, Anastasia Sotiropoulos, Jesse Williams, Alysha Orbach, Sharif Long, Diomarvellous Nsofor, and Aayush Dave.

More to come later this week as we begin Third Committee Hearings tomorrow!  Enjoy a round-up of pictures from our first couple of days below.  For more CONA coverage, be sure to visit the official CONA blog.  Media delegate Gloria Ogunlade wrote a feature story about Jariah Cole that highlights Jariah’s impressive leadership and resilience.  You don’t want to miss it!

2018-07-02T13:02:57-05:00July 2nd, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

2018-2019 Officer Profiles: Meet Your Secretary of State!

At State Conferences last January and February, YMCA Texas Youth and Government students elected a new slate of officers to serve them during the 2018-2019 program year.  We’ll be featuring an interview with each officer on our blog in upcoming weeks.  This week: Secretary of State Jonathan Forseth!

What are some of your primary goals (personal and related to the program as a whole) for your time as Secretary of State?

As elected Youth Secretary of State, I have a few important goals I would like to accomplish this year. First, organization. As a whole, Texas YG can get pretty hectic around conference time, especially considering the large number of members/delegates throughout the state. As SoS, I believe it is part of my duty to ensure that I contribute to the organization of our District and State Conferences. In order to simplify the organization/order of these events, I will be pushing for the release of conference schedules in advance of the actual conference. By doing this, we will be able to cut down on some of the confusion surrounding these conferences. Second, I will be working with the other officers to ensure that we are properly educating new delegates prior to the school year. I will work locally in my District of Fort Worth to get more students involved in this revolutionary program. Finally, I want to help foster more collaboration between the Districts in order to help prepare for the State Conference. I hope to do this by sending ambassadors into different Districts throughout the state to help recruit and train new delegates.

You’ll be returning to CONA this summer.  What would you say about the CONA experience to new YG delegates?

When you hear people say that CONA is life-changing, you may think that sounds a bit cliche, but trust me when I tell you that CONA is an opportunity unlike any other. The people you meet there truly become lifelong friends. If you don’t know much about CONA, or maybe you feel that you aren’t cut out for it, please consider applying next year. Step out of your comfort zone, and step into the fresh air of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

You’ve also got six years as a Leg delegate under your belt.  What bill/advocacy topics are you most passionate about?

Having been in Youth and Government since sixth grade, I have seen thousands of bills. Out of all of those bills, the ones that stick out to me the most are ones that make me question our way of life. There is a saying that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  However, just because something isn’t broken, doesn’t mean it can’t be improved upon. I love bills that promote revolutionary change/ideas in the State of Texas. I also appreciate bills that improve outdated systems and create better regulations and rules in our society.

What are some of your summer plans?

If you follow me on any of my social media accounts, you can tell right off the bat that I love adventures. I love to travel as much as I can as well as venture out with my friends. My main goal for this summer is not to spend an entire day at home. I plan on going out every single day with my friends, traveling with my family, and attending as many camps/opportunities as I can. I also plan on collaborating with my fellow YG officers in order to improve this amazing program.

2018-06-18T15:00:09-05:00June 18th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

2018-2019 Officer Profiles: Meet Your Attorney General!

At State Conferences last January and February, YMCA Texas Youth and Government students elected a new slate of officers to serve them during the 2018-2019 program year.  We’ll be featuring an interview with each officer on our blog in upcoming weeks.  Next up: Attorney General JaDarius Jones!

What inspired you to pursue the Attorney General position?  What goals do you have for the Trial Court? 

I ran for the position to engage my leadership skills for the program and to make a brightening change to the Trial Court branch.

My goals for Trial Court are:

  1. To help new and transitioning delegates from other sections get adjusted to the Trial Court setting
  2. Clarify any confusion related to roles and assets included in the section
  3. Ensure that all members receive their scores from both District and State level

What would be your dream topic for this year’s case and why?

My dream topic for this year’s case might be murder. The tension between all characters of the case would bring you to the edge of your seat. There are many hidden conspiracies and motives that once revealed would cause utter shock among the audience. That is the type of feeling that I enjoy experiencing and that could never go stale.

Share a favorite YG memory.

My favorite YG memory was the experience of running for my current position. I got the opportunity to meet, interact, and make friends with a multitude of people. The amount of stress I dealt with when running caused a catastrophic amount of pimples to grow on my face, but in the end, it was all worth it regardless of me winning or not.

What are you most looking forward to this summer?

To bond with my fellow officers and to implement my platform as promised.

That sounds like true commitment!  Thank you, JaDarius.

2018-06-12T14:49:20-05:00June 12th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

2018-2019 Officer Profiles: Meet Your Chief Justice!

At State Conferences last January and February, YMCA Texas Youth and Government students elected a new slate of officers to serve them during the 2018-2019 program year.  We’ll be featuring an interview with each officer on our blog in upcoming weeks.  Next up: Chief Justice Amena Tep!  Look out for more on Amena later this summer.  She and six other classmates will represent Creekview High School in the YG National Judicial Competition in Chicago in early August.

What would you like other delegates to know about Appeals Court?

One thing I want everyone to know about Appeals is that it’s very different from Mock Trial. When people think of the judicial section they automatically assume, HEY Mock Trial. But in reality it’s more complex than that. The Appeals Courts are the ones that review cases that have been heard in lower courts. It mainly has to do with constitutional violations. And we construct an argument using case law and statutes.

What is your favorite thing about acting as a justice?

My favorite thing about acting as a justice is how much control you have. I do about seven competitions a year at my school, and I’m attorney for all of them. Switching over to being a justice for YG really gives me exposure to not only power but also to understanding the case on a deeper level.   The judges already know the case much better, we have to in order to ask complex questions during the round. And it makes me happy.

Share a favorite YG memory.

My favorite memory is running for Chief Justice and getting to know all the candidates.

What are your plans for the summer?

To study, and prepare for college. Also to meet with the other officers to plan for next year!

2018-06-06T12:24:53-05:00June 6th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

2018-2019 Officer Profiles: Meet Your SAF Chair!

At State Conferences last January and February, YMCA Texas Youth and Government students elected a new slate of officers to serve them during the 2018-2019 program year.  We’ll be featuring an interview with each officer on our blog in upcoming weeks.  Next up: SAF Chair Diomarvellous Nsofor!

What topics do you feel most passionate about when you consider developing the list of SAF topics for the year?

The most passionate topics are those that are not only prominent, but also topics that we, the delegates, are stakeholders in. Those kinds of topics truly have an impact on our lives and motivate delegates to put in their best effort when creating a proposal.

What would you like non-SAF delegates to know about SAF?

I would like for non-SAF delegates to think of State Affairs as the base of the “tower of diplomacy.” State Affairs prepares delegates with knowledge of parliamentary procedure (Legislative) and helps solidify their skills in effective researching and questioning, critical thinking and answers to questions, and public speaking (Judicial & Legislative).

Share a favorite YG memory.

My favorite YG memory was the 2017 SAF Pro/Con intent speeches (mainly Giadolor’s). Seeing the crowd roar following the personal speech of a fellow delegate proved to me, truly, how much you could move others with your words and experiences.

What are some of your favorite things about living in Houston?

Houston is extremely diverse! When I first moved here and only spoke Italian, I was surprised to notice that two of my neighbors spoke Italian as well. The majority of the communities here are very welcoming. I also enjoy how conveniently near my house Whataburger is.

What keeps you busy outside of YG?

Beyond Youth and Government, I do Congressional debate, am a journalist for my school’s Audio/Video team, and enjoy playing chess. I’m also Senior Council President for Sharpstown High School, so I handle all senior class affairs and plan important events such as prom and graduation.

2018-05-31T07:22:22-05:00May 29th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

2018-2019 Officer Profiles: Meet Your Lt. Governor!

At State Conferences last January and February, YMCA Texas Youth and Government students elected a new slate of officers to serve them during the 2018-2019 program year.  We’ll be featuring an interview with each officer on our blog in upcoming weeks.  Thanks to our Youth Lt. Governor, Chris Tian, for sharing these remarks!

What are some of your primary goals (personal and related to the program as a whole) for your time as Lt. Governor?

My primary goal for the program as a whole is to create a more widespread and interconnected YG program throughout Texas. My vision coincides with Aayush’s to incorporate more schools and delegations into this organization. I feel that YG has been categorized as a political activist debate club only, but that’s not the case. It’s much more than that, and the amount of change that the three days at State made me go through only goes to prove that. As for my personal goals, I want to recreate the fun and exciting experiences that I’ve been through for everyone else in this program, and as the Lt. Governor, I’ll also work hard practicing and getting the procedures right in order to carry out my duties in the Senate.

Share a favorite YG memory.

My favorite YG memory would have to be the moments I spent personally campaigning and approaching others to talk about their own experiences in the program. I’m really not a really extroverted person, so it truly was exciting to push myself out there, and I can see that my efforts were pretty successful.

What are some of your summer plans?

Definitely to work, but before that, I’ll need to finish up driving lessons and finish preparing for the SAT. I’m also looking to start a few personal projects of my own, but that’s a secret. . .

How long have you been playing your ukulele?  Favorite songs?

I got it near New Years, I picked it up and started playing with it a bit. I’d been playing for around a month before State. My favorite songs would be Hey There Delilah and Shape of You. Actually, during the end of the second night and the third day of State, my thumb started bleeding since I wasn’t used to strumming so much!

2018-05-31T07:22:22-05:00May 17th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

2018-2019 Officer Profiles: Meet Your Governor!

At State Conferences last January and February, YMCA Texas Youth and Government students elected a new slate of officers to serve them during the 2018-2019 program year.  We’ll be featuring an interview with each officer on our blog in upcoming weeks.  First up: Youth Governor Aayush Dave!

What are some key issues you would like to highlight during your term as Governor?

Concerning the Youth and Government program, there are a number of additions and reforms I would like to implement in collaboration with the State Office and my District Director during my term. Based on the sentiment expressed by delegates from this year’s State Conference, I, along with the other state officers, would like to collaborate with our advisors and the State Director to optimize aspects of the legislative and judicial section areas, capitalizing on the tremendous growth in participation Texas YG has experienced in recent years. Furthermore, as a Governor who campaigned on a Grassroots platform, I would like to create district leadership opportunities to cultivate local interest in the Youth and Government program.

With the help of the 72nd Youth Legislature, I would like to enact a concrete agenda focused on a few key issues. First, I will sign bills that increase public school funding for purchasing new educational materials, hiring skilled teachers to teach advanced classes, and incentivizing graduation to decrease Texas’ abysmal high school drop-out rate. Increased funding would specifically allow low-income areas to invest in improved education, helping their students to be competitive in the workplace or the college application process. I would also like to sign a bill increasing the state tax on the operation of coal power plants to discourage their continued usage.  Coal plants are responsible for the most pollution in Texas and pollution of the Guadalupe and Big Bend National Parks. Finally, I would like to sign a bill dedicating funds to start a statewide campaign against human trafficking, promoting awareness among youth, and to increase the reach of the state Human Trafficking Task Force to decrease human trafficking cases in future years.

What most excites you about the platform you ran on at the State Conference?

I am excited by the fact that the delegates chose a candidate that ran on a Grassroots agenda designed to improve the program at the district level…I don’t believe that my fellow delegates elected me because of my experience in Youth and Government. Nor do I believe they elected me because of the awards I have won through the program (2 years in the program and no awards won). I was elected because of the comprehensive platform I proposed to improve the YG program: create a district leadership opportunity, invite college representatives to the State Conference, and improve the speed and functionality of the judicial and legislative sections. My hope is that I can inspire others to run for state office who aren’t necessarily the most decorated Youth and Government participants but who can demonstrate that they would have a positive impact on the program.

How long have you been with YG? What is your favorite moment in YG?

I have been a part of Youth and Government since the beginning of my tenth-grade year (2016-17 school year). That was the year I, along with four other friends, founded the YG program at my high school. Since then, we have grown and gained support as a program that promotes youth civic involvement in the community. My favorite memory is from the first fundraiser our club held to decrease the cost of the State Conference for our members. To provide background, three students dropped out of the club in its first year before the State Conference because of cost. Therefore, we resolved to solve that problem this year, partnering with our local Pearland Chamber of Commerce to hold a community fundraiser attended by community leaders, business professionals, and school officials. Through this effort, we raised $4,200 in donations and were able to send 22 delegates to the State Conference. We thank the Pearland Chamber of Commerce for their generosity in helping us achieve our goal and for hosting an incredible event for our members! Our Congressional Representative Pete Olson and State Representative Ed Thompson also attended the event—Mr. Thompson has been great help in promoting our organization throughout the community and we sincerely thank him for his help as well! I had the privilege of giving a speech at this event, and it was a truly surreal moment due to the people in attendance as well as the importance of the event in our club history. In that moment, I could not contain my pride in our YG club and all that we had accomplished up to that point.

Advice for other delegates?

Find your passion. Have a vision. It is important to identify what makes you get up in the morning and get to work. Without that spark, it is impossible to reach the pinnacle of whatever activity/sport/competition/career you invest your time in. It does not have to be Youth and Government, politics, or even government-related. You simply need to find that one thing that you love to do and want to be the best at. Building the Dawson HS Youth and Government club was my passion, and it has led me to the office of Youth Governor. But along with that passion, I had a vision to grow the club in size and skill. My vision to grow the Dawson HS YG club was simple, but through that simple plan, many other opportunities have presented themselves, such as speaking, fundraising, and leadership opportunities. As a result, I firmly believe that if you work hard at your vision, your vision will eventually work for you.

What keeps you busy outside of YG?

I am a member of the DECA business competition club, Future Problem Solvers competition club, Interact volunteer organization, UIL Academics, National Spanish Honor Society, and I am the incoming President of the National Honor Society. I have also been a member of the varsity tennis team for the past two years and a member of the Congressional Youth Advisory Council.

2018-05-31T07:22:22-05:00May 14th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments