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Introducing the Texas Delegation Youth Advocates

Each year, two students are selected to participate in the YMCA Youth Advocate Program at National Advocacy Days in March. This program is designed for students who are passionate about advocating on behalf of the Y’s agenda in support of youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. Students spend three days in Washington D.C. meeting with policymakers to advance these causes. Meet this year’s Youth Advocates representing Texas: Diomarvellous Nsofor and Grayson Winchester.

Diomarvellous Nsofor

Please list some of your YG related accomplishments.

Throughout my time with Youth and Government, I have been privileged to promote youth civic awareness and engagement within our community, attend the Conference on National Affairs, and most importantly, hold an office seat as the State Affairs Forum chair.

What motivated you to apply for the Youth Advocate Program?

As an immigrant in a predominantly minority community, I constantly advocate for change in many different sectors. Even though I find advocating for change within my community and local legislature to be very essential, I have always been in search of ways to increase the scope of lives that can be bettered through advocacy and I believe that National Advocacy Days would help immensely.

As a Youth Advocate, you will engage in hands-on advocacy training. What topics are you passionate about advocating for on behalf of the Y?

On behalf of the Y, I am extremely passionate about advocating for issues affecting our youth, such as increasing civic engagement within the youth and promoting secondary education within minority communities to eliminate cyclical poverty.

Grayson Winchester

Please list some of your YG related accomplishments.

I have served as President of my school’s Youth and Government club. I’ve also been an attorney for one of my school’s mock trial teams for 3 years qualifying twice for District Court. This year, on top of helping lead my own team, I am also working with and mentoring three other mock trial teams in my club.

What motivated you to apply for the Youth Advocate Program?

The YMCA has played such a key role in my development as a citizen and leader. I joined my local Y’s swim team in 7th grade and went on to become involved in Youth and Government as a sophomore. It’s given my the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone on so many levels, allowing me to grow in areas I never would have thought possible. Very few organizations in our communities have all that the YMCA has to offer and it’s for that very reason I want to help continue that legacy by promoting awareness for the YMCA and it’s benefits among our nation’s leaders.

As a Youth Advocate, you will engage in hands-on advocacy training. What topics are you passionate about advocating for on behalf of the Y?

More than anything else, I’m passionate about the need for social responsibility among the youth in our culture. Our great nation gives us the right to express our beliefs in and outside of government. As a by-product, it is our responsibility as citizens to participate in the democracy of our nation; however, too often people are inhibited by apathy toward their ability to make a difference in our society. For this reason, I wish to advocate on behalf of the Y for opportunities, such as Youth and Government, that will grow interest and understanding of social responsibilities.

Join us in congratulating Diomarvellous and Grayson! We are so excited for them to have this opportunity and we can’t wait to see what great things they accomplish in Washington D.C.!

2018-12-03T16:10:14+00:00December 3rd, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Support Texas YG this Giving Tuesday

Did you know that among all of the United States, Texas is ranked 39th for volunteering, 47th for voter turnout, and 50th for discussing politics regularly? The YMCA Texas Youth and Government program recognizes these rankings and strives to make a difference. Our program prepares students through education and hands-on experience to commit to voting, volunteering, and participating in their community.  Tomorrow, on Giving Tuesday, we hope you consider contributing to our mission of helping Texas teenagers become responsible citizens through civic engagement and participation. Your gift will allow one of more than 2,000 students to attend our State Conference where they will practice the interworking aspects of our government and gain the confidence to express their opinions. Help a student attend our State Conference by donating on our website at https://ymcatexasyg.org/donate/.

2018-11-26T12:51:51+00:00November 26th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

An Insider’s View of District Conference (PHOTOS)

By Riley Wheaton

A collection of photos explaining how Youth and Government is an impactful and pertinent organization that raises and trains the leaders of the up and coming generation.

State Affairs: Mental Health and Wellness

Delegate Victor Falcon speaks on behalf of an amendment he proposed for Delegates Sheridyn Campos and Delegate Nirupama Balaji’s forum proposal “to aid high school students struggling with mental illness” by implementing a Mental Health Wellness Awareness Week each year. While Delegate Falcon from Hays High School believes that the proposal is “imperative for mental well-being,” he suggested that this week should take place on a monthly, rather than annual, basis. While the authors denied his amendment because such action would be too costly, the proposal was still passed during this practice round. Falcon elaborates that he enjoys participating in Youth and Government because of how it is “really fun to hear and see everyone’s hard work” as well as the experience he can gain for future endeavors.

State Affairs: Banning Minor Conversion Therapy

Delegate Chance Hall from Delle Valle High School speaks on behalf of his proposed bill for minor protections against conversion therapy. Hall chose to write this bill because he believes “conversion therapy is just a big form of torture” and that we would have a “better society” without such a practice existing. Several Delegates agreed with hall in saying that this practice is “outdated and extremely hurtful” (Delegate Parks Austin High) and “counter-productive” (Delegate Jamail Hays High School). One delegate stated that while such programs are harmful, it should be up to the parents’ discretion. Hall responded with the idea that under certain circumstances, this is understood, but under no circumstances should minors be forced into this specific type of so-called therapy. This form of competition under Youth and Government is exposing these students to real-world issues and allowing them to take a stance that betters our community.

Trial Court

Judge Rinehart has been participating in Youth and Government for three years now. After being a witness and then an attorney, Rinehart chose to tackle the role of judge this year in order to receive well-rounded experience in the different positions of the court. This year’s case involves an intoxicated manslaughter, in which all trial participants are able to evaluate serious and applicable scenarios. Rinehart’s role serves mainly to maintain “order in the court,” however, she explains that all of these experiences have given her “opportunities to expose herself” to fields of interest. Youth and Government provides many students who are “interested in law” to figure out if this is actually a career path they would like to take while being able to delve into their positions in a safe environment.

Legislative: Bill 24

Delegate Johnson from Fox Tech High School gives her closing authorship speech for her bill for the Improvement of Immigration Detention Center Living. Johnson explains that there is a lack of opportunities for immigrants in Texas and urges the introduction of some form of education to better their lives. While there was some push back due to the funding for the bill, Johnson still stood firm that on top of giving them educational opportunities, these people also should have the right to quality food, water, clothing, and other basic needs. Johnson states that immigrants have come to America in hope of a “dream that they knew people say America has,” and this dream should not be suppressed.

Legislative: Bill 45

Delegate Tyler Hauger  speaks on behalf of Delegate Lily Sethre-Brink’s act to legalize sex work for legal adults. Hauger agrees that this act would “decrease STDs because of crime” of rape and sex trafficking as Sethre-Brink elaborated has been proven through a UCLA study. They advocate for this due to it being and individual’s right to use their body as they choose this regardless of the controversial opinions that exist on the issue. Hauger explains that he chooses to participate in Youth and Government because he wants “to go into politics in the future” and “it’s incredibly fun!”

Junior Youth and Government: Monarch Butterflies

Delegate Elias Reyborn from Clint Small Middle School proposes an amendment to Delegate Cali Reever’s act to propose protecting the migration paths of monarch butterflies. Rayborn suggests to amend line 7 of the bill in order urge against using pesticides for the milkweed that would be planted. Reever accepts this amendment and moves to her closing speech. She explains that “monarchs are amazing creatures (that) deserve to stay” and, therefore, she urged “all of (the delegates) to vote for this bill.” The chamber voted and her bill passed.

Junior Youth and Government

In Junior Youth and Government, these students are introduced to the rules and guidelines of the competition for legislature. The students first learned how to enact in basic debating through simulation before moving on to more complicated topics such as points of order. Students are openly allowed to ask questions about the guidelines in this environment. When responding to whether or not you can vote on your own bill, the teachers explain that you most definitely can and that you can even “vote against your own bill if you do not like it anymore” possibly due to an unwanted amendment.

Governor Candidate Addie Mae

Addie Mae Villas has been involved in Youth and Government for three years now and is a very dedicated member. This year she chose to run for Governor due to her passion for the organization and will to “change the status quo” of Youth and Government. Not only would she like to be the first female Governor since 2010, but, she is urging the integration of schools and throughout these competitions. She has this grand idea for a new form of Youth and Government that forms long lasting friendships while preparing for future careers.

Legislative: Chairs

Delegate Griffen Smith is preparing for his role as chair of his chamber while others are discussing what Youth and Government has to offer past the district level. Smith explains that his role is to “run the round,” make sure each delegate gets proper precedence, and that the round is carried out properly.

Appellate Court

In this court, Daniel Springer is representing the State of Texas (appellent) against the appelle, Cameron Shepard who was accused of intoxicated manslaughter. In this round Springer gives long and elaborated speeches about this case and specific facts that references several other cases in order to come to a conclusion on this case. The Judge questions each side in order to draw out certain holes in each argument. For example, Springer suggests that “Officer Cole was able to remember certain facts” in which afterward the Judge explains that “law enforcement officer factual observations on DWI cases” are not accepted by the hearsay rule. All participants hard work shown through in this detailed round that is truly giving them real-life experience for any sort of career they would like to pursue in this realm.

 

2018-11-10T15:19:10+00:00November 10th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Duo Improvises Way to Appellate Victory

By Ava Motes

Sophomores Luka Verheul and Alden Harris argued their first appellate case this morning, surprising both themselves and their opponents when the judge ruled in their favor.

“I felt so unprepared, I can’t believe we actually won,” said Harris, “It still feels like we didn’t deserve it.”

The pair was competing against another group from their school, who had spent over a month assembling their arguments. Harris and Verheul, on the other hand, wrote their opening statements twenty minutes before the trial began. Underdressed and unconfident, they went into the trial under the presumption that they would lose gruesomely to their peers.

Verheul and Harris faced an array of obstacles over the course of this morning.

“We overslept, we forgot to print our brief, our carpool almost left without us because we were running late, and the suit I planned to wear didn’t fit anymore,” said Verheul, “it was just like every little thing that could have gone wrong did.”

Verheul forced to attend the conference wearing loose-fitting thrifted trousers, vans, and sweatshirt. He felt entirely out of place by comparison to all of the other competitors.

“I didn’t think they’d take me seriously. The other team walked in looking insanely professional, and I was in a hoodie,” said Verheul.

“The past 24 hours were just so stressful,” said Verheul, who had gone to bed at 2 a.m. after sleeping-over at Haris’ house the previous night.

They had expected to buckle-down on their preparations the night before, but procrastinated to the point that productivity was no longer feasible.

“We would just keep saying ‘let’s watch one more video on YouTube, then we’ll prepare.’” Verheul said, “We just got into this mindset of putting it off because we were just so nervous.”

Two weeks prior, Harris and Verheul missed the deadline for appellate brief submissions and feared that they would be barred from participating.

“I didn’t even feel like preparing anymore because it just seemed like we wouldn’t be allowed to come,” said Harris.

The shaken feeling accompanying such insecurities stuck with them both, even after they were told that they still had the opportunity to compete. This compounded with first-time jitters, leaving the pair feeling unstable in their knowledge of the case general appellate proceedings. They were unsure of what to expect, and it seemed as though their work leading up to the conference was insufficient.

“We really did know the specifics of the case well, but I was worried that we couldn’t hold up in heavy debate,” said Harris.

However, appellate trials are not the extensive due process debates that they are often made out to be. Such trials are controlled and contained, testing your knowledge and interpretation as opposed to your use of flashy argument tactics. Effective public speaking skills are important for swaying a judge to rule in your favor, but it is just as vital for attorneys to understand the foundation of their case and respond to questions clearly.

After Harris and Verheul realized that the trial would not function as they had feared, they were able to proceed with more confidence.

“What we had expected was just so much worse than how it actually was. Once we realized that we could do this, despite everything we had been telling ourselves, everything went well,” said Harris.

Ultimately, Harris and Verheul were able to surge ahead of their opponents.

“We were respectful and clear, and I think that really impressed the judge,” said Verheul. Despite their last-minute preparations, they knew all of the answers to the questions posed to them and were able to respond thoroughly.

“I think we just needed to realize that everything was okay, and we actually knew our stuff,” said Harris.

The pair were able to prove themselves during their first trial, giving them the reassurance they needed to proceed with success throughout the remainder of the conference.

2018-11-10T15:04:44+00:00November 10th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Bill passes for free public college for Texas residents

By Ivan Kipp

A new bill proposed at the Austin YMCA Texas Youth & Government District Conference is seeking to promote affordable public college in Texas by implementing a gasoline tax. The bill passed unanimously.

This bill was presented by Hays High School Delegate Dylan Cousins, who is a senior.

Delegate Cousins says that this bill will enact a “small to medium increase in gas tax” to ensure that any family making under 125,000 a year will be able to attend a two to four year program at any Texas public college for free given that they are residents in the state of Texas, take 30 credits per calendar year, and plan to stay and work in Texas following their graduation for the same amount of time they were apart of the program.

Delegate Cousins claims that “we need to reduce student debt”, and that the state will do so by implementing the tax previously mentioned on gas. Cousins says that his bill “closely mirrors legislation in New York” and current practices at Rice University in Houston, Texas. The tax will be determined by the Texas Education Agency, who will evaluate the cost of implementing the bill and instruct the Texas comptroller to raise the gas tax to cover the costs, as stated in Cousins bill. Cousins also says that it “is of vital importance to the state” that the TEA reports these projected costs. To fluctuate accordingly with changes in the economy, the TEA will re-evaluate the cost and if necessary propose a change in the legislature.

Cousin argued that an increase in gas tax would “give Texas better education and will reduce student debt.”

Cousin added that the bill will only apply two or four-year public colleges, excluding private universities.

Delegate Nambala from Vista Ridge in support of the bill agreed that “we won’t have much pain, but mostly gain after passing or re-evaluation” of the bill.

Delegate Cousins said that the benefit of the reduced bachelor’s degree will benefit the lower class to a greater effect. According to the Economic Policy Institute, “college graduates, on average, earned  56% more than high school grads in 2015”.

This act shall take effect beginning the 2022-2023 school year for all public universities.

2018-11-10T14:46:23+00:00November 10th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Homeless Rehabilitation Bill Proposed and Passed

By Sierra Jackson

During Committee three, delegate Sangmin Yi,of Cedar Park High School,12, presented a bill declaring the homeless shelters that were currently being run publicly and privately to be reformed into a center where they will be able to learn basic and/or advanced skills used to achieve employment and rehabilitation. The bill was passed 10:0.

“I saw that if you just keep it as homeless shelters, the cycle is going to keep continuing where people are going get off their feet and try to become independent again, only to fall back into poverty because they don’t have the right skills or environment,” Yi said.

Yi argued, “by changing homeless shelters to homeless rehabilitation centers, it can provide them with an environment where they can join back the economy and society.”  

Additionally, Yi added that adding a rehabilitation component to homeless shelters would eventually “boost the economy because businesses can make donations to these centers and they will get first choice of picking people to work for their business.”

Although the bill was voted in unanimously, there was an amendment added. The amendment states that private shelters should not be included to this bill because they do not receive federal funding. The amendment was passed with a 9:0 ratio.    

2018-11-10T14:01:57+00:00November 10th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Act of Free Public College Bill Proposed in Texas

By Tierra Jackson

During Committee One, Ramya Nambala, of Vista Ridge High School, 9, presented a bill declaring free public college, resulting in its acceptance. Delegate Nambala researched the bill using economical research. The bill was passed 3-4.

Nambala believed that by making public colleges free that it would give all Texans a new opportunity to be able to attend college no matter their economic background.

Tuition in public colleges has steadily risen over time; in the course of 33 year’s, tuition has risen almost $10,000, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. Additionally, the amount in student loans has grown proportionally. Between 1992 and 2012, the amount owed by a student with a bachelor’s degree doubled, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Nambala argued that by making public colleges in Texas free, it will gradually motivate students and even undergraduates to pursue their college dream.

“If other countries such as Norway, Finland and Iceland all have free public college, that the state of Texas should agree to act in favor of the bill also,” Nambala said.

Opponents of Nambala’s bill argued that free college would further tax middle and upper-class citizens.

2018-11-10T13:54:34+00:00November 10th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Bill Proposes Adding Third Gender Option to Driver’s Licenses

By Christina Thies

A bill proposing the addition of an “other” or third gender option to state-issued driver’s licenses was killed in Committee Three session at Youth and Government District Conference. Delegate Alex Watson, 9, authored and presented the bill in hopes that it would provide the idea of inclusiveness into this critical identification. The overall idea of this bill was to refrain from classifying based off of sex, and instead provide a gender non-conforming option.

The bill was defeated 6 to 5.

Watson stated the idea behind his bill came from his participation in the GSA club at his high school.

“Through many stories shared by many members who have struggled with the discomfort of choosing a set gender, [I was able to grasp] the idea that something needed to be done,” Watson said.  

The opponents of the bill stated, “It would be more difficult for law enforcement and the judicial branch to identify individuals in the case of an accident”. Additional opposition cited possible increases in fraud as a reason this bill should not be passed. Some opponents expressed concern with the third gender creating unfair treatment, which could possibly alienate a group of people.

Watson argued it was a fundamental human right that people should be able to choose how they are perceived in society. Supporters of Watson said, “It should not be up to the government to choose how individuals are represented, but the individuals themself.”

Although the bill did not pass, Watson continues to advocate for non-conforming rights.

2018-11-10T13:18:39+00:00November 10th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Legalization of Sex Work Bill Proposed and Passed

By Christy Morales

A new bill proposing the legalization of sex work passed 7-2 votes. Lily Sethre-Brink, a senior at Dripping Spring high school, argued that sex work is in individual right in need of government protection.

“People should be able to use their body as they please,” Sethre-Brink said.

Sethre-Brink also argued that we shouldn’t hold the “moral of people on others.”

Amod Daherkar argued that the legalization of sex work could increase sexually transmitted diseases. Tristan Aradi did not fundamentally disagree with the bill, but added it could increase or decrease the number of people in sex work. On the other side, Tylar Hauger said the bill would help, and it did not “harm other people.”

Sethre-Brink also added that the legalization of sex work could decrease rapes and physical injuries. She also cited that there are “more dangerous” jobs than sex work, and those jobs are not illegal. Ultimately, she argued it was an individual’s right to be able to choose their type of work.

2018-11-10T13:15:05+00:00November 10th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

New Bill declaring Affirmative Action practices illegal, replaces policy based on race with socio-economic status

By Ivan Kipp

A new bill presented at the Austin YMCA Texas Youth & Government District Assembly seeks to render all practices and policies of Affirmative Action illegal in the United States, and replace these practices based on race with socio-economic status. The bill was passed in a unanimous vote.

This bill was presented by LASA High School Delegate Avik Ahuja, who is enrolled as a junior.

Ahuja’s bill has called for declaring the use of affirmative action policies in the employment process and university admissions to be illegal.

Currently, eight states have already banned Affirmative Action practices, which includes Oklahoma, California, Washington, Michigan, Nebraska, Arizona, and Florida. This bill will extend the ban to all 42 other states who still have Affirmative Action policies.

According to the Cornell Law School, Affirmative Action is “a set of procedures designed to eliminate unlawful discrimination among applicants, remedy the results of such prior discrimination, and prevent such discrimination in the future”. This practice was implemented during LBJ’s presidency with the purpose to encourage minorities in enrolling in college and jobs that were predominantly held by white populations. Ahuja found that while the historical origins were necessary for the time, these practices now only take race into consideration and are devoid of qualification, individual achievement or character, he said.

Delegate Ahuja says that Affirmative Action is “a form of legalized discrimination” under the basis of race, and believes we should implement socio-economic factors in its place. Ahuja also quoted the late Reverend Martin Luther King in support of his bill that we should “live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”. Ahuja further elaborates that he believes “in a color-blind admission process” and that the debate over Affirmative Action should end.

Amendment Author Delegate Augustus Brown says that “I do not believe that Affirmative Action is the way to go for deciding who receives grants or scholarships”, and was “wary of it at first”, but believes that this bill “will be a benefit to the State of Texas”. Delegate Brown continues the implied purpose of Delegate Ahuja’s bill with his amendment to replace Affirmative Action with policies to aid those with a socio-economic disadvantage rather than race. Delegate Brown says that basing these replacement policies on socio-economic status will “promote those who lack resource” rather than just their race.

A delegate in favor of the bill said that “this helps promote diversity through background and socio-economic status” and still helps those minorities who are lower class, “which also aids the original purpose” of Affirmative Action.

2018-11-10T13:14:16+00:00November 10th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments
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