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PHOTO ESSAY: Personal Testimonies

By Gabi Jensen


This photo essay shows the essence of journalism; the people are talking, their stories are what need to be heard. Youth and Government has given them their voice, and I hope this helps project it. For the past three days these people have been working tirelessly, not to mention the months of preparation that was put into this program, they’ve been debating and showcasing and finding new angles and ultimately competing. They’ve been trying their best and learning new lessons about who they are and what they can improve for next year. These are their personal testimonies.

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Sophia Bannerot, 12th grader from Worth, Brenbrook YMCA, has been in Youth and Government for 4 years. She’s been apart of the judicial branch the whole time and worked her way to the position of judge. “I thought it would be kind of fun, I wanted to be a witness because I heard it would be kind of like acting, and I’ve always been into drama and at first this was a cheaper alternative to drama, but then I got really into it.” said Bannerot. She explained that speaking in front of people used to be a struggle for her but “[she] thinks it’s a good experience especially for introverted people because it teaches [them] how to go out and meet and talk to people in large groups.” Although starting the club with the idea that it was a supplement for something she loved more, she found a passion and a hobby. Despite not currently planning on going into a career regarding politics she said that the training and experience she’s encountered has definitely given her the ability to try for one if she were to change her mind.
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Susanne Mabie has worked with Texas YG for over 30 years, she’s been state director of Texas Youth and Government for 14 years, a branch director in Houston, and branch directed in Louisiana. Despite the titles, what makes Susanne passionate about this organization is seeing the teenagers grow up and actually develop careers in law and government. “Seeing these people come back made me really see the value in giving a voice to today’s youth.” she elaborates. Despite having retired, she remains one of the YMCA’s key volunteers.

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Dawson Noltensmryer, Ft. Bend Branch Highschool Club, Fort Bend YMCA, has been in the program for three years and this has been his second year as an attorney, remaining in judicial for all three years. Both of his siblings had done it and his friends had done this program so he decided “maybe it’d be fun.” He explains that he is a lot more outgoing now and comfortable with public speaking. “I’d say my entire personality has changed, I’m no longer scared to be myself and to have my voice heard and I actually Credit it that to Youth and Government.” Noltensmryer furthers.

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Analisa Gutierrez, 11th grader from Boyd High school, McKinney YMCA, joined to become a better speaker. Her goal is to actually be in the FBI and after that continue on with a different government job. “Honestly this program has just helped me be more prepared to succeed and given me a pathway into adulthood.” she explains. She believes that this program teaches you to never doubt yourself but to always work on yourself. She explains that she would not be the same without this program.

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Chase Patterson, 10th grader from Hyde park, North Austin YMCA, joined because he likes debating and hearing other people’s ideas. “They help me strengthen my own.” he explains. He plans on going into a career with a mix of law and politics “along the lines of attorney general honestly.” Our youth are our voice and “with each passing year we need to constantly be aware of fake news and the ideas circulating, we need to be able to form our own ideas otherwise we’ll fall subject to everyone else’s mind.” His stance is that if you’re even thinking about joining youth and government that you should go for it.

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Mathew Grimm, 11th grader from Ceder Park Highschool, Williamson co. YMCA, initially was interested in pursuing a career in engineering, however, Texas YG changed that. He now wishes to peruse a career in politics after two years of being in the legislative branch, both Hyde house and the House. “I believe this program is important to today’s youth because it allows us to experience what it’s like in a politicians shoes and conveys the knowledge we need to succeed. It’s like a stepping stone…do whatever you want, make a fun bill make a serious one, just give it a chance, it won’t let you down.” said Grimm.

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Vivienne Garner, 10th grader from Boyd Highschool, McKinney YMCA, has been in Texas YG for five years, her origin story is a tad different, she didn’t just stumble upon the group, she was lead to it. “My 6th grade history teacher basically forced me to try it out and said ‘look if you don’t like it you don’t have to do it again’ but I just fell I love.” Despite not planning on going into a career in politics she still found a hobby with this club and found solstice within it which I think resembles a lot of the reasons you should try new things. “This has pushed me out of my comfort zone and shown me how to not be afraid of talking in front of people, like going into job interviews, I won’t be stressed because I know what to do. Youth and Government prepares you for a lot more than you realize.” Her top advice is to just give it a shot, there’s nothing but good that could come from it and if you hate it you don’t have to come back.

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Bethel Bekele, 12th grader from Creek-View high school, Coppell YMCA. Despite being a senior in Highschool this is Bekele’s first year in Texas Youth and Government (Texas YG). “Last year I just realized that I really had a passion for law. I really enjoyed Government.” said Bekele. She plans on majoring in her undergrad with political science and after that, possibly law school. “This process has definitely helped me decide on who I am and what I want to be. It’s helped me realize that I want to be an attourney. It’s shown me what I’m good at and what I need to work on. And I think that’s the point of this program, to help you grow.” Bekele’s advice for anyone thinking about joining youth and government is to do it despite the terror it may instill. “It’s the most professional and hardworking group I’ve ever been apart of and it’s honestly life changing.” she explains.

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As Miley Cyrus says “it’s not about what’s waiting on the other side, it’s the climb.” The important thing to take away from this essay is that everyone deserves to be heard and seen and that’s what Texas YG has done for so many people. These students show in their words and in their choices how this program has personally benefitted them and how appreciative they are of it and t that should give us hope for our next generation. We are the future. We are the change.

2019-01-26T17:31:15-05:00January 26th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

PHOTO ESSAY: District Court Conference

By Alison Torres

Attorney Melanie Hernandez is presenting her opening statement. “We’re here today as we sit here mourning the loss of Chassity Barnes’s young life due to someone’s selfish and thoughtless actions, because that’s exactly what this is. When the defendant decided to sit behind the wheel after a night out drinking with his friends, he was being selfish.” says delegate Hernandez as the opening to her speech.

Delegate Nikki Desai begins her opening remarks, “Good morning your honor, my name is Nikki Desai and I’m here with my partner on the behalf of the defence. On June 30th, 2018 the defendant went through a few bumps, had some laughs, made some memories and proceeded to drive as usual, only to be distracted by an old lady following him, one who wasn’t even wearing her prescription glasses while driving.”

Delegate Stephanie Gonzales answers questions as Imani Haynes being a witness of the crash. Prosecution asks delegate Gonzales, “what did you see before the crash?” She replies, “before the crash I saw that there was a vehicle swerving in between the left and right lane.”

“What did you do after seeing this?”

“After viewing this I called the police.”

“What happened after the crash?”

“After the crash I pulled over and went to go check on the passengers, I noticed there was this severely injured girl,” says Stephanie Gonzales.

Prosecution is attempting to enter Emerald Hayne (played by Gabriel Magee) as an expert in chemistry with the specialty in blood analysis. The Defence (Nikki Desai) states, “this is far too broad for this to be entered as expert analysis. Furthermore, delegate does not reach two out of the five requirements, there’s no record to show how long he’s been working, therefore, he does not meet the experience required to be an expert.” The judge rules him as an expert in chemistry with specialty in blood analysis.

Attorney Jenelle Murata questions Urban Rhodes.

“Is this a receipt from the bar that you work at?”

Rhodes responds, “I don’t recognize that document.”

Prosecution attempts to put the receipt into evidence, the defence objects, delegate Aanika Kashap states “My witness has not been able to validate the authenticity of this document therefore it is not admissible into evidence.” The judge decides to enter the receipt into evidence.

Urban Rhodes is a bartender at the bar that the group attended the night of the crash.

“And you gave him three shots of whiskey correct?” asks the prosecution attorney Jenelle Murata. He replies with “I gave him a round of shots.”

The prosecution follows up with “how many is a round of shots?”

Finally Rhodes replies with “Three shots.”

Delegate Erin Crittendon, playing Dr.Sidney Tate, is being questioned. She is a vital part of the defense since she’s the one that took the measurements of the alcohol level in the defendant.

“What field is your PhD in?” she was asked.

She responds with, “In Education.”

Prosecution then asks “So it’s not in biology or chemistry?”

She responds no.

Officer Jordan Cole is being questioned as the prosecution tries to put something in evidence. “No it has not,” says Officer Jordan Cole while being questioned if her SFST paperwork was tampered with. The paperwork gets entered into evidence as exhibit “a.”

Defence Attorney Jerell Moody is questioning a witness when he gets interrupted by the prosecution. Moody asks, “when he (the defendant) asked for an attorney why wasn’t he given one?” The defence is then interrupted by prosecution with an objection, the defense is asked to restate their question.

“Will everyone please stand as the judge walks in.” says bailiff Alex Horton. All delegates rise and the court is started. The attorneys are asked if they are ready to begin and the witnesses go under oath raising their right hand to promise to tell the truth and nothing but the truth.

2019-01-26T17:08:50-05:00January 26th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

PHOTO ESSAY: The Events of the Farabee Senate

By Nathan Henderson

Introduction

A collection of photos from Nathan Henderson taken on January 26, 2019. All photos were taken during the YMCA Youth and Government state conferance.

The Chamber Commences

The Chamber of the 72nd YMCA Student Legislature commenced in an orderly fashion on Saturday, January 25, 2018. Led by the senate chairs, deliberation continued until 5 pm where the senators ajorned and returned to the hotel. Five bills were proposed varying in subject material greatly. Overall, the senators sparked continuous debate on the proposed bills.

Introduction into the First Bill

Proposed by Caleb Zhang, bill FS062 states, “an act eliminating automatic addmissions requirements at all public universites and declaring an emergency.” Senator Caleb Zhang started his speech with an explanation of the bill as well as additionally giving background information to why the bill was written. He states that “universities should consider a more wholeistic view of a college application.” This would promote equal opportunites for all students by allowing for universities to consider the whole application of the student.

The Arguement Begins

Senator Zhang provided research for his arguement. He stated in his opening remarks, “colleges must admit the top ten percent to university.” Zhang continued to illustrate his point by saying that automatic admissions do not properly take into consideraton the merit of the student. He said that automatic admissions only focus on grades and not on SAT score or other forms of student academic achivement. Other than helping students get admitted into universiies, Senator Zhang argued otherwise.  

Oponent

Senator Lily Sethre-Brink took to the stand to explain her opposition to the bill. Her arguement was that low income students have more obligations. Frankly, low income students will not have enough time to complete extracurricular activites to go on their transcript. She said that the bill favored higher income students who had more reasources to gain extracurricular activties on their transcript. Therefore, Sethre-Brink rallied for the opposition of this bill.

The Decision

The Farabee Senate passed Senator Caleb Zhang’s bill to do away with automatic admission to universites. The Senate thought the bill proper to the issues that were revelent at the time. After over two hours of deliberation, the bill was passed.

The Second Bill

In a bill proposed by Senator Abel Macias, the senate debated a bill saying, “an act regulating the capacity the capacity of ammunition held in gun magazines and declaring an emergency.” Senator Macias gave numerous details supporting his claim, one of which was the Las Vegas massacre. Senators showed their passion for the bill and deliberation continued for well over an hour. The delegates attempted to ammend and change the bill but in the end, it did not pass.

The Debate on Gun Control-Bill was not passed

Throughout the debate, the senators deliberated on numerous aspects of the bill, as well as trying to make amendments. One of the most common issues that surfaced was the effectiveness of the bill. Senators debated whether limiting the magazine to only fifteen bullets would accomplish the decline in mass shootings. The senators eventually agreed to fail the bill.

False Allegations

The next bill discussed charges against people who accused others of false rape charges. Those who were accsued would end up facing the same charges of purgery. However, too many admendments were attempted and the punishment was raised. Therefore the bill failed.

Failed

The bill itself took well over an hour to be deliberated. All senators who raised their voice in either favor or disgust tried extremely hard for their way to come to fruition. The intent of the bill was good; however, it was not passed.

Summary

Overall in the Farabee senate, the senators showed great activity and energy while debating the bills. Throughout the trials, individuals competed hard and strong to show their opinion in all of the bills that were proposed. Numerous bills were proposed, and all delegates showed their standing in the matters present.  

2019-01-26T16:20:37-05:00January 26th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

District Court Teams: Fight for the Top

By Karxyriah Ashley

Hard-work, preparation, and dedication. At the 72nd Annual Youth and Government State

Conference held in Austin, 41 Judicial District Court Teams from schools all over Texas came together to compete for a chance to go to Nationals.

Throughout the day, the blood, sweat, and tears that each team put into preparing the court case was showcased during mock trials.

Although, by just watching the trial, the sheer difficulty of playing a witness, attorney, or bailiff, might go unnoticed, it has been a long and hard road for many teams to get to this point.

One team from Dripping Springs High School had months of morning practices and even did last minute practicing in the elevator to make sure they were even more prepared.

Even though, due to scheduling, they had to do a lot of individual and last minute practicing, “in the end we pulled it all together,” said delegate Gabriel Peeples from Dripping Springs.

“Based off the critiques from the trials we’ve been in I think we have a good chance of going [to Nationals],” said Peeples.

For Peeples, the hardest part about this year’s case was “clearing up with the attorneys a lot of different questions and how to answer if the opposing team asks unexpected questions.”

However, overall, “I enjoyed working on this case because there’s a lot of different angles and ways to approach it at for either team,” said Peeples.

Another hard-working team from Hays High School had began meeting in August to “go over the case, read through the affidavits, and come up with questions for defense and prosecution attorneys so we could help each other,” said Preston Jones.

“The hardest part Isn’t always going over the facts but thinking about what is the other team going to say or what someone else is going to think of that we have never met before,” said Nick Muller of Hays High School.

However, after all is said and done, “I personally enjoyed working on this case because it was a lot more challenging for the prosecution and that made it more interesting, said Jones.

Although every team can’t be in the top, no matter what happens ever team competed today knowing they performed to the best of their ability.

2019-01-26T16:17:11-05:00January 26th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Delegates Mingle After a Long Day of Hard Work

By Sarah Roy

After a full day of hard work students competing in the Youth and Government State Conference took a break from the nitty gritty to relax from the diligent nature of the day. With many activities throughout the hotel, delegates were given the opportunity to cut loose and mingle with fellow delegations.

Students attending the conference worked hard and remained focused on the tasks that they were assigned to throughout the day. It was understood that the work being done was highly comprehensive and not easy. Activities were set up for the students later that night, allowing them to get a well-deserved  break after a long day. While these activities consisted of simple things, such as board games, and arts and crafts, it was still a great chance for everyone to let go and spend time with friends. From playing card games, like spoons, to getting comfortable and watching Jumanji, there was something for everyone to do. There was even karoke, in which some people got so into it that when the music was cut, they continued to belt lyrics from Hamilton. A good time like this was necessary as it provided students with a little fun over a weekend soley focused on their political involvement.

“It was nice to be able to just hang out. Everyone was being silly and it was a lot of fun,” a student said.

Not only were the events planned a good way to help students relax, but they also provided the districts with a good opportunity to interact with one another. With five different districts attending the conference, there was a very diverse group of students, all with diverse backgrounds. The opportunity to meet people with different interests and characteristics is a wonderful experience and the fact that they’re coming together for a weekend to share the things that they’re passionate about with equally as passionate people is remarkable.

“I didn’t really think that I would end up hanging out with people who weren’t in my delegation, but I ended up meeting a few people from other delegations that I wouldn’t mind keeping in touch with,” a student said.

The students attending the conference understand that what they’re doing is important work and an amazing experience to have. It’s even better though when they get the chance to lay back and have fun. With multiple opportunities for knowlede and political involvement along with the activities provided and new people to meet, it makes for a well-rounded weekend.

2019-01-26T16:09:13-05:00January 26th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Judicial Delegates of District Court Don’t Plan on Pursuing Law in Their Adult Life

By Auyana Aird

Taking on the role as a witness, bailiff, attorney, or judge brings a different feel to many of the judicial delegates. Time, memorization and acting skills to be able to cause a more realistic feeling of the case. Considering this hard work and dedication, you would think delegates would be involved in this section for future careers, but most delegates say otherwise.

“I thought about pursuing law and it is something that’s in my mind but most likely I will not do this as a career.” Delegate Manny Carmouche from the Baytown YMCA said.

It takes a lot of preparation for the on-sight seven round trial in district court. Even though, some Judicial members do not see a future in the law industry.  

“The law is really interesting but I do not think it is the best pathway for me.” Karla Rodriguez from Metro YMCA. “I would like to become an environmental engineer and attend The University of Texas at Austin to pursue that path.”

It was evident that Judicial members enjoy the program and the process, but still, multiple delegates agreed the program did not connect with their career path.

“Getting into the case and being more aware of the process is a reason that I am still in Judicial.” Delegate Juan Navejar from North Shore said.

The cases presented in Judicial are real world cases, it replicates real world trials. The thought of having this as a career in adult life is not in the eyes of most Judicial delegates. Being in the State of Texas Capitol makes the experience of mock trial authentic but doesn’t change the mind of most delegates decisions on not pursuing their career on law.

“I do not plan on doing this in life, I am just doing this for fun.” Delegate Nam Houston from Baytown YMCA said.

The intensity of being in a mock trial room while it is in session is through every district court door you walk through.

“I do not plan on doing law in my adult life because I have kind of found my love within the biology field but this is a really interesting life experience for me.” Delegate Sierra Scott from Hays High School said. “Even though I do not plan on going into law when I graduate, it is still a really great experience and has taught me so much in government in general.”

2019-01-26T16:06:36-05:00January 26th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Judge Takes a Stand

By Simone Lee

Jared Walters, a county court judge has been doing youth and government for three years now and has seen the judicial branch at its peak and at its low points.

“I believe the judges are not objective. They seem to lean towards the verdict that is their opinion,” Walters said.

Walters believes that we need judges who were not only better trained but that prove to be objective. Most judges are juniors or seniors in high school.

The opinion of Jared Walters seems to be shared by other delegates as well. Allyson-Lynn Naylor, a senior from Westwood High School, shared her perspective.

“This problem has been going on since I started doing judicial, it’s a problem that needs to be addressed, it has been in fact,” Naylor said.

Now, a lot of people want changes to the judicial branch and they want it quick. When the Westwood High School Judicial team was questioned about it, many of them felt that it was so hard to love a branch that has so many issues.

“I love Youth and Government, it’s made me consider actually wanting to be a lawyer,” Westwood delegate and judge Grady Mack said. “However, I do believe that judicial has so many issues that really need to be addressed and resolved efficiently.”

2019-01-26T15:21:42-05:00January 26th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

State Affairs Delegates Experience Their First State Conference

By Qandeel Suleman

Many of the delegates of the State Affairs General Assembly are current first years of either the State Affairs section or Youth & Government itself. Some of these delegates simply believe that the State Affairs Forum would be an interesting section to participate in.

Amir Kinnare, a sophomore from Imagine Academy of the Dallas district, expanded upon as to why he chose to participate in the State Affairs Forum along with his first experience of a Youth & Government State Conference.

Delegate Kinnare, in his first year at the State Conference, expressed that he chose to participate in the State Affairs section.

“I enjoy hearing other people’s opinions and learn from them,” Kinnare said.

However, he did feel as though this was an intimidating section because of how nervous he is when talking in front of his fellow delegates, yet he keeps going. According to Kinnare, he “fakes it ‘till he makes it.”

The delegate’s proposal was not a part of the General Assembly because it did not pass through the Second Committee. Delegate Kinnare elaborated how his group’s proposal was on creating a space force in order to provide protection against any outside forces such as meteors.

However, during the Second Committee, Delegate Kinnare believed that his proposal did not pass due to his group and his lack of confidence and lack of research. He plans on improving next year in order to present a proposal of his own in the General Assembly.

Many delegates agree with Kinnare that the first year is rough on your own when approaching the stand to talk and think quickly in order to influence your fellow delegates and voice your opinion. On the other hand, they do believe that the State Affairs section is a place to learn, grow, and enjoy your time in Youth & Government.

2019-01-26T15:12:52-05:00January 26th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Bill Proposes Minors Eligible to Serve in Jail

By: Filip Ivanis

A bill by Gabriel Letcher was “highly controversial,” Mrs. Talley said. The author didn’t give much information and, accordingly, delegates had many questions and amendments.

The bill states that if a minor commits four misdemeanors they are eligible to go to juvenile jail. Misdemeanors could range anywhere from getting a ticket for crossing a street in the wrong place, to certain drug crimes with small amounts of a controlled substance, and weapon possession offenses.

“This would mean that a 13-year-old who stole a five cent bubble gum and a 17-year-old drug addict would be treated the same,” said an amendment author trying to precisely define offenses covered by this bill.

Another amendment was made to the bill. It changed the destination of these minors from jail to a juvenile detention center, “to the provide education minors need”

There were four other amendments debated, two of them “really similar” as pointed out by delegates. “They were both just focusing on the change in age at which the bill will be applicable” commented one delegate.

Some stated that “If a minor has been punished three times already, the fourth time is honestly too much, and a detention center is fair.” However, others asked, “If the minor has been punished three times already and nothing has changed, what is the point of taking the minor outside the education system and straight to jail?”

The opponent speaker made a statement that “The bill is too straightforward and it skips over the details like they had no time to be considered. There is nothing in this bill that stops a death sentence to be issued, and no minor should be sentenced like that.”

Proponents were pointing out that “This bill will drastically help Texas by discouraging criminals, even if they are only children.”

The opponents had combated the proponents with statements as “This bill isn’t completely clear, and it sets no limits for the punishments.”

The opponent which the delegates agreed with the most was Jalen Lake. He said, “I believe this bill will destroy young minority communities. This bill is an undercurrent and it doesn’t prevent some judge to sentence a minor to 30 years in prison where they should only serve 5.“

After more than one hour of debate, the bill didn’t pass, with three people voting aye, while everybody else voted nay.

2019-01-26T15:05:59-05:00January 26th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

A New Delegate’s Perspective

By Sierra Jackson

Delegate Mihir Nakra from Centennial High School in San Antonio, Texas is a member of the Legislative Hyde House.

This year was his first time in the Youth & Government program.

“I’ve really enjoyed State so far this year. It’s really been interesting and helpful for me, ”Nakra said. “YG gives you so much more insight on what actually goes on in the government.”

Nakra said that he was actually nervous about his bill at first. “I was nervous at the beginning, but when closing summations came around, I knew what I was going to say, and I said it, and it was good,” Nakra said.

Nakra had his bill passed today in committee. His bill was relating to the necessity of prerequisites when purchasing long arms of handguns. He had many proponents and many opponents on his bill.

“I was kind of surprised that the committee approved my bill,” Nakra said. “They came at me with some really hard questions, and I tried to answer to the best of my ability. There were 300 mass shootings in America in 2018, and it is really a big problem. We need gun control and this is just a small step in the process.”

2019-01-26T14:58:04-05:00January 26th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments