Elizabeth Storm from Bishop Lynch High School was recently named the 2020 Law Related Education Teacher of the Year! This prestigious award is given annually by the Texas Lawyers Auxiliary to celebrate the accomplishments of teachers who have made significant contributions in the area of Law Related Education. Besides a recognition certificate, the award carries a $1,000 gift to show the deep appreciation the Texas Lawyers Auxiliary has for Storm and the work she does. Storm embodies the purpose of Youth and Government and teaches her students about democracy and how not to lose faith in government. We are lucky to have her in our program and working with our students!
We already know that the teachers in Texas YG are the best educators in the state. However, it is always exciting to see our teachers receive recognition elsewhere. Armin Salek, the club advisor at Akins High School, is a standout teacher in the Austin District and successfully led two judicial teams to 5th and 2nd place at the 2020 State Conference. Salek is also a renowned teacher outside of YG. In April, Austin ISD named Salek Teacher of the Year for 2020. In addition, Salek was recently awarded the Rather Prize, an award given to the student, teacher, or administrator with the best idea on how to improve education in Texas. You can watch a video here and here to learn more about the Rather Prize and Salek’s ideas to improve education.
Congratulations to Salek on all of your achievements! We are lucky to have you as a member of the Texas YG family!
This was a challenging week for our 22 delegates that participated in CONA 2020 on a new virtual platform. Despite the many unexpected difficulties that our delegates face, Texas showed up strong at CONA this year. We would like to congratulate the members of the Texas YG family that served in leadership roles this week and celebrate the recipients of various awards.
First, congrats to Timothy Sinnott, member of the Texas State YG Board of Management and recipient of the 2020 Paul Grist Award.
The following delegates served in a leadership position at CONA 2020:
- Aayush Dave as Presiding Officer
- Tadiwa Mujokoto as Conference Life Committee Member and Proposal Sharing Group Leader
- Alex Searles as Round Table Chair Leader
- Vivienne Garner as Proposal Sharing Group Leader
- Alyssa Mills as Proposal Sharing Group Leader
- Madison Dillon as Committee Chair
- Mikayla Pastrano as Committee Chair
Congratulations to Athvait Manikantan, Alyssa Mills, Mikayla Pastrano, and Chase Patterson. Their proposals made it to General Assembly. Mills, Pastrano, and Patterson’s proposals were passed in their respective assemblies.
Finally, congratulations to Garner and Sam Mills for earning Distinguished Delegate.
Overall, all 22 students did an excellent job representing Texas at CONA 2020. Many of our delegates spoke out in committees, Grand Assembly, and Plenary and delivered excellent and well thought out intent speeches and pro and con points. However, what truly made this group of delegates special was the amount of compassion and kindness they showed to one another and to the delegates from other states and their commitment to the YMCA Core Values. All of our delegates from Texas helped made CONA 2020 a success and congratulations to all of them for their hard work and participation this past week.
Currently, students from Texas YG are virtually attending CONA. Though the experience is very different and we do miss being in the Blue Ridge Mountains, we are still having fun debating ideas with our friends and colleagues from across the country. We are so excited to announce that four proposals from the Texas Delegation advanced to Grand Assembly at CONA! Congratulations to Athvait Manikantan, Alyssa Mills, Mikayla Pastrano, and Chase Patterson! We hope your proposals continue to do well in the next round.
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.
Congratulations to the Class of 2020! We are so proud of everything that our students have accomplished this past year, and the strength they have shown these past few months. We created presentations for our seniors that responded to a survey. Take a look and help us celebrate all of their accomplishments.
During the first week of March, Texas YG sent two students, Sebastiane Caballes ’20 and Ariana Palomo ’21, went to Washington, D.C. as a part of the YMCA Youth Advocate Program. They learned about advocacy and how to speak about different issues with their representatives. The highlight of the week was that Caballes and Palomo attended meetings on Capitol Hill with the YMCA Texas State Alliance on National Advocacy Day and advocated on the behalf of policies that align with the YMCA’s core values.
Upon their return, both students took some time to answer a few questions about their experiences. Read on the learn more about their adventures in Washington, D.C., and be sure to ask your advisor about National Advocacy Day in the fall if you are interested in representing Texas in 2021!
What all did you do during National Advocacy Days?
SC: National Advocacy Days featured many different events and programming, the main part being advocacy on Capitol Hill of course. Ariana and I met with the offices of various senators and representatives from Texas, speaking with staffers and sometimes even the actual congressman/woman themselves. During these meetings, we would discuss the various legislative priorities Y-USA is pushing for in this session and we advocated heavily for an increase in budget for the Department of Justice’s Youth Mentorship Program(s) since this priority resonated with us the most. Outside of Capitol Hill meetings, we also took part in various civic engagement/awareness workshops as well as multiple networking events and receptions intended to connect us with Y-USA leadership. Lastly, we attended a Congressional Champions breakfast where numerous congressional members received awards for their work with youth.
AP: Everyday of National Advocacy Days was filled with a variety of events. Every night we had a workshop with Y-USA staff and the other advocates. For two of the days there we had meetings on Capitol Hill in which, with our state alliance, Sebastian and I met with congressmen/women and senators. We reached the peak of advocacy work when we advocated for our legislative priorities to our representatives. We were able to attend various networking events with members, CEOs, board members, and staff from YMCAs all across the country. In addition, we listened to a multitude of speakers such as the President of the YMCAs in the US. The last day we had a Congressional Champions breakfast where we honored various congressmen/women and senators.
What did you learn about advocacy?
SC: I learned that advocacy is all about building a connection. You can have the strongest case for a particular piece of legislation or program, but if you are unable to connect with the senator, representative, or staffer then you will get nowhere. Advocacy is all about generating investment in the issues you are passionate about and creating an environment where others feel equally as invested in those issues as well. Advocacy is more about the conversation rather than dropping millions of numbers and figures.
AP: I truly think the most important thing to know about advocacy is that people remember how you made them feel rather than what you said. When advocating, an impact story is so much more powerful than a set of statistics. This isn’t to say statistics are not important, because they are. However, someone will remember the emotional impact of your presentation more and connect on a more personal level with the policy you are advocating for. Stories make a difference because it puts things in perspective and makes it feel more real.
What was the most valuable or memorable experience you had?
SC: It would be impossible to pick a single moment from the conference. Everything from the workshops to the meetings fully immersed me in Washington, D. C. and gave me a firsthand experience at the inner workings of our democracy. My most valuable experience, however, has to be pitching our legislative priorities to Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee. Everyone talks about the “elevator pitch” and Ariana and I had to literally give our pitch in the elevator. Rep. Lee had a packed schedule from attending the Coronavirus briefing held by Vice President Pence to attending specific House Committee meetings. In the midst of all of the chaos, we walked with her through the Capitol halls, up stairs, and down elevators, presenting our priorities. Giving our “elevator pitch” to her was the most intense and empowering experience at National Advocacy Days.
AP: There was not a time while in Washington, D. C. that I did not enjoy. However, the Capitol Hill meetings were definitely one of the best experiences. Our first meeting was with Rep. Sylvia Garcia. I was extremely nervous not only because it was our first meeting, but because she is also someone I truly look up to as a former attorney and judge and now a congresswoman. The way in which she represents the Latinx community is amazing to me and meeting her was an incredible experience. When we shared our priority with her, she said that she would support it and that was an amazing feeling. After the meeting, I stayed to talk to her about a sign she had in her office that said, “Se Habla Ingles.” Everything she said in our conversation was inspiring and I greatly valued the opportunity to meet with her.
Another memory that stands out to me is that after meeting with Rep. Pete Olson, we walked with him to the Capitol because he had to go vote on the coronavirus bill. When we reached the entrance to the Capitol, instead of hurrying inside to vote (as he had only about five minutes to make it in at this point), Rep. Olson hugged both Sebastian and I, pointed to the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, and the Capitol and yelled, “Who owns that? You do!”
Attention all high school and college students!
The Hatton W. Sumners Foundation released information about their scholarship. It is a great opportunity for students that currently attend a college or university in Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Read the flyer here for more information and to see if you are eligible for the scholarship.
Don’t meet the criteria?
At the bottom of the flyer is a link of the Hatton W. Sumners scholarship page, where they have listed out all of the scholarships available to students in high school, undergrad, graduate, or vocational programs. Be sure to visit their website and look through the list of scholarships to see if there are any you are eligible to apply for!
An architectural and landscape exposition of the Texas State Capitol
By Mika Sood
Red Granite Majesty
The Texas State Capitol Building, currently in its third iteration throughout its history, serves as the home of YMCA Texas Youth and Government for 2 days every January. The building’s rotunda, along with its other components are adonished with local red granite, giving the Capitol building a distinctive pink hue. In this image, the rotunda is framed by a Texas live oak from the southeast Capitol grounds.
A Shadowy Past
Situated near the eastern entrance to the Texas State Capitol building, Hood’s Texas Brigade statue survives as a testament to the bravery shown by Texan Confederate Army units during the American Civil War, a stark reminder of Texas’ sometimes troubled past and the 6 flags that flew over its capital of Austin. While the statue is a reminder of Confederate times long past, it continues to remind YG participants that they are the voices of the future, a reminder that we must remember our troubled pasts if we are to avoid them again in the future.
Red Granite Rotunda
Texas’ Capitol building is one of the tallest state capitol buildings in the country, propelled to a height of 302.64 feet by its red granite rotunda, higher than the US Capitol building in Washington D.C. The rotunda contains many intricate architectural patterns that contribute to its ornate facade, including pillars, circular windows, and exterior window molding.
Reach for the Sky
Established as Austin in 1839 after a decree by Texas’ congress and second president of Texas Mirabeau B. Lamar, Austin and it’s capitol have long evolved from a sleepy western outpost between Santa Fe and Galveston, having been economically transformed and revitalized by the growing industry and corporate centers in the city.
The image looks southwest towards The Austonian condominium complex and other recently constructed skyscrapers, a sign that the Texas Capitol building no longer dominates the city skyline.
A sidewalk lined with Texas live oak trees extends towards Congress Avenue and Lady Bird Lake from the southern grounds of the Texas State Capitol building.
Originally constructed with the rest of the Texas State Capitol Building, the historical Senate Chamber houses joint state senate sessions and is home to the YMCA Texas Youth and Government Farabee Senate.
White and Gold Heavens
This unique architectural ceiling design is present in both the House and Senate Chambers in the Texas State Capitol, adding a needed brightness to rooms which can be dark and consequential in both lighting and subject matter.
The House from Above
YMCA Texas gubernatorial candidate Vivienne Garner (McKinney YMCA) gives an election pitch to her constituents in the joint session of the YMCA Texas House of Representatives.
Closed to the Outside
Looking at a unique perspective of the House Chamber’s wooden shutters, physically and metaphorically closing off the chambers from the outside, allowing business and debate to proceed as usual.
An alcove of the Texas State Senate chamber. Even in the most serious and professional environments, interiors can be as inviting as one’s study, library, or alcoves back home.
Don’t Forget to Look Up!
Perhaps the most intriguing and distinguishable interior design elements of the Texas State Capitol building, the interior rotunda exhibits a continuous cell pattern, culminating in a large star with the word “Texas” located directly above the viewer. The star is bright directly in the heart of the capitol building.
By Gabrielle Jensen – Hays High school Delegation
“Democracy must be learned by each generation.” – Dr. Earle T. Hawkins
(Adopted to be the Youth and Government motto by, Clement “Pete” Duran)
Youth and Government foundation
The Program, now known as YAG, YMCA Youth and Government was originally established in 1936 in New York. However the Texas Youth and Government program did not follow far behind, being implemented in 1946. Since then this program, run by the YMCAs across america has spread to 37 states. The goal of this program was originally simply to educate but to many it has become a home, a place of expression where you feel truly heard. Despite tight elections for many categories and a wide variety of differentiating ideas, the Core values established by the YMCA, “Inspire, Serve, Lead”, remain constant through most. The people within this program have been taught to respect democracy as well as others, which creates the kind, understanding atmosphere many saw today in our 2019 annual district conference.
Road to discovery
Kate Schuller, 11, cedar park delegation is currently in the running to become the 2019/2020 Texas Youth and Government Governor. When asked if she could come up with one sentence that encompasses her entire campaign she responded with “Efficiency with Schulle.” afterwards, she elaborated by adding that her wish is bigger than herself or her fellow generation of Youth and Government delegates. “It’s creating a program [YAG] that is both efficient and effective.” she continued to describe how after listening to the community, what she noticed most was the grievances that Texas Youth and Government as a program, isn’t efficient with their time or training in various roles. Overall she said being Governor is “so much more than a title, it’s mostly creating a better program from the voices of every delegate.”
“Exclusion is the opposite of what we stand for” -Victor Falcon
Another candidate for the 2019/2020 Governor election is Victor Falcon, 11, Hays High school Delegation. When asked why he decided to run for Youth Governor, Victor simply stated, “For me, the driving force was the people who came to our club and wanted to join but became discouraged by either personal factors or timing issues.” he used this statement to elaborate on the fact that his most pressing concern for the program is to create more than just two events for delegates to compete, “allowing more time for people to hear about the program and try it out.” said Victor. After joining Youth and Government in the 2017-2018 year he said that the biggest changes he noticed within himself was that the program “opened [him] up to new views and helped [him] become a better public speaker because I was allowed to learn from my mistakes by experience, i want that for others.” He described the YAG program as his light through the dark and mostly expressed his needs as a means of allowing more people to gain the self-growth that he’s attained through the past few years.
With new people, comes new paths
The Third and final candidate for this years governor election is Angel Prado, 11, Fox Tech Delegation. Expressed that if there is one thing he wants to express within Youth and Government its that “Our government is not dead.” He continued on to discuss how he can see the mistrust of the Government to the people and explains that the polls and the lack of movements both for and against politics in texas is a concern of his. Angel concluded his desires with one simple phrase, “I’m trying to encourage change in the world and for me, that starts with YAG.”
The past lives on
There are other positions up for election this year besides YAG governor. For instance, this is Mikayla Pastrano, and she is running for Speaker of the house. When asked why she decided to run for speaker of the house she explained to me that she goes by the motto, “if you’re too big to serve, you’re too small to lead.” after which, she related the role of Speaker of the house to “serving the house as a vessel by maintaining the order.” Her opinion on the role was that it’s commonly misinterpreted to be “a leader position” but stated that she feels it’s mostly her just “serving the Youth and Government community.” Within her experience of serving under the Governor’s cabinet last year she realized “People can come in with completely opposite bills and still ultimately be unified by their respect for our system, which is definitely something I would love to help grow.”
Change, in the present
Amond Daherkar, 11, Vista Ridge Delegation, is Mikayla’s opposition for this years speaker of the house. When explaining his motives for running, Amond took a slightly different approach and explained how last year he found flaws and inefficiencies which is what sparked his inspiration. He stressed that he wants to change things now, he wants to fix the flaws in the present before they become long lasting. Amond said that if there’s one thing he wished people fully understood about him is that, “I’m not here to waste your time.” He went on to explain how he felt that a lot of candidates he’s seen appear to lead with “false promises, that don’t ever change.” I’m here to create a “stronger community built upon real promises.” and that’s what he feels means the most when considering leadership roles.
Maia Vollbrecht, 11, With the Hays High School Delegation, is the only delegate running for Chief Justice this year within District 2 of YAG. However that doesn’t mean she has less to say. She explained to me that Youth and Government showed her “the impact that can be made from speaking out” and elaborated on that idea with the thought that, “This program teaches me things school refuses to. It opened up a whole new world once I finally started to understand the structure and function of the government around me.” The reasoning she gave me when asked about why she chose to run for chief justice was accompanied by a sentimental statement. Maia explained how she was “inspired by the other elected officials [she] met last year at state.” And that she “Really wanted to be like them, They cared so much about meeting everyone and helping them improve, it didn’t feel like they were just doing their job.” she also continued on to explain that she hopes to be that kind of a role model for younger delegates with this position.
As shown, each candidate that applies for a position within YAG, seems to have drive behind them that causes them to want to create change and continue improving the Youth and Government legacy. Behind each of these individuals is someone who understands that they can make a difference but also that they are not the only ones who can. When each governor candidate was confronted with the question of “Do you respect your fellow candidates?” all of them immediately said yes. Said in different ways, they each agreed that their opponents all had something to bring to the table and that overall they’re just happy to be apart of this “Family” as each of them called it. They understand that democracy is the voice of the people and within the peoples voices is their wants.
Tied together with a bow
Within this year’s District conference ive learned more about the connected-ness of this community than I ever thought was possible. Every candidate I interviewed expressed how they “just want to give their people a voice.” (Kate Schulle, 11, Cedar Park Delegation). The Foundation of this group was built with such strong principles that even after over 70 years. The core values of the YMCA, are still the most important values to this generation of leaders. They each want to make the world a little better place, maybe in different ways, however their hearts are in it just the same across the board.
Media and their coverage
Media, has a lot of behind the scenes that doesn’t tend to be addressed however, i believe that with the core Values of the YMCA being to “Inspire. Serve. And lead.” media attempts to cover all aspects of that. They keep you informed in whichever platform of your choosing and also write to encourage others, within that, maybe without even knowing, they end up helping lead a whole community by letting the people be heard and expressing that upon several platforms that can reach just about anywhere now days. This point was proven to me by a statement i heard from a freshman