Students at the Virtual State Affairs Forum Conference on May 30, 2020.
The last few months have been quite an adjustment for students due to COVID-19. Though the spring is a slow season for Texas YG, students still missed out on the opportunity to participate in weekly club meetings and continue to develop their skills. COVID-19 taught the world that there was a need for virtual programming to help people connect remotely when being in person was not possible. Many different organizations are having to develop virtual programming to meet the needs of a society dealing with a pandemic. Like for many other groups, virtual programming is unchartered territory for Texas YG and no one knew how to proceed with the rest of the spring semester.
However, our officers for the 2020-2021 program year stepped up to the plate and came up with a creative solution. For the months of April and May, the officers led Texas YG’s first weekly virtual club meetings with students. Governor Vivienne Garner and State Affairs Forum Chair Ethan Ong taught a group of about 20 students about State Affairs Forum. Many of the students had no previous experience with State Affairs Forum. “About half of the students were from the Judicial or Legislative branches, and it was amazing to watch them adapt and grow in this new section and in a new setting that is unlike the typical classroom club meetings,” Garner said. The students used Zoom to discuss how to write proposals, potential topics, and the procedures of State Affairs Forum. They also had the opportunity to practice their proposal presentations with each other and have debates with one another.
History was made on May 30, 2020 when Garner and Ong hosted Texas YG’s first virtual mini-conference. Ong said, “As many other states were forced to adapt and hold their state conference online, we believed that Texas should follow suit in preparation for 2021. Therefore, these participants paved the way for potential virtual conferences in the future and created the model for Texas YG.” The students came together and formed two committees and discussed a total of 12 proposals. Afterwards, five proposals advanced to the Grand Assembly, chaired by Ong. The other officers volunteered their time and assisted Garner and Ong with the conference. Our judicial officers (Attorney General Jerrell Moody, Chief Justice Alexis Boehmer, and County Court Judge Alyssa Mills) stepped in and served as chairs for our committees. In addition, Print Editor-in-Chief Adriana Contreras also assisted with the conference and designed the cover of the proposal book. In response to the collaboration and assistance from the other officers, Garner said, “We all worked together to figure out the best way to design and hold the conference and in the end, it was an amazing success.”
Ong reported that the experience was a success and appreciated the opportunity to test out electronic evaluations. “As the State Affairs Forum Chair, I have made it one of my goals to transition from a paper-based proposal evaluation to an online evaluation form,” he said. “Therefore, this conference was an amazing time to be able to implement and test this new online system that I had drafted. And while there were a few obstacles that came up, I now know how to improve and make the system more effective for the State Conference in 2021, regardless if it is online or in person.” Overall, the entire virtual experience was a success and received praises from the participants. In fact, multiple students requested at the end of the conference that this event becomes a yearly tradition because they enjoyed it so much. Texas YG will for sure be happening this next year, though the format may look different compared to what we are used to. If virtual platforms need to be incorporated more for club meetings and conferences, the experience that students had in April and May taught us that not only is virtual Texas YG possible, but it is just as engaging and fun as in-person participation.