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!

May 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.

May 14th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

National Volunteer Week 2018: A Photo Tribute

Our volunteers in action!  Check out these photos documenting our volunteers’ involvement throughout the 2017-2018 YMCA Texas Youth and Government program year.

April 18th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

National Volunteer Week 2018

Happy National Volunteer Week, Texas YG!  Our volunteers make our program possible, and we cannot stress enough the impact they make.  We hope the stats above and student testimonials below convey our appreciation for our volunteers’ hard work.  Thank you!

Awesome feedback on evaluators!
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at this State Conference, so props to all the volunteers and leaders that caused it to be so great.
I know having enough volunteers makes a difference!
GREAT evaluators.
I was super impressed by the amount of amazingly qualified individuals that y’all found to evaluate District Court. These men and women showed that they really cared about our future success through their critical feedback in every case as opposed to the all positive feedback received at the district competition.
April 16th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Congrats, 2018 CONA Delegates!

We’re proud to share that these 25 students were chosen to represent Texas YG at the YMCA Youth Conference on National Affairs (CONA) this summer! We can’t wait to see what they accomplish at the Blue Ridge Assembly.

CONA will take place the first week of July.  Look out for coverage through our blog and social media!  To learn more about CONA, visit our CONA page.

March 15th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

National Advocacy Days 2018

Advocacy and political activity are in the air this week with the wrap up of Texas primary elections.  Texas Youth and Government is proud to share details about how students Athena Bruess (Dallas) and Maria Daniela Noonan (Austin) are currently bringing their own passions for advocacy and civic engagement to the nation’s Capitol!  The Texas Youth and Government program selected these National Advocacy Days Youth Advocates from a competitive pool of applicants.

Each year, Youth and Government programs across the country send Youth Advocates to participate in Y-USA’s National Advocacy Days.  Y representatives and Youth Advocates meet with legislators and other decision makers to discuss Y-USA’s policy priorities.  Y-USA grounds these priorities in the Y’s focus areas: youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.  This year, Athena and Maria Daniela are helping Y-USA advocate for quality out-of-school-time programs funded by 21st Century Community Learning Center allocations and the Child Protection Improvements Act.  This legislation grants organizations that serve children access to FBI fingerprint background checks as part of their comprehensive volunteer and employee screening process.  Our Youth Advocates are also standing up for $1.28 billion in funding for the CDC’s Chronic Disease Control and Prevention program and tax reforms to facilitate charitable giving to nonprofits strengthening American communities like the YMCA.

Through their National Advocacy Days experience, Athena and Maria Daniela are gaining exposure to the national policymaking process, Y-USA advocacy efforts, and public policy career tracks.  They have met with Rep. Pete Olson (Texas’ 22nd congressional district) and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas’ 18th congressional district).  They have also connected with Y staff including David Lopez with the YMCA of Greater Houston and the Texas State Alliance of YMCAs and Cesar Silva, Chief Financial Officer of the YMCA of Greater Houston.  When not in meetings with legislators or Y staff, they have a chance to visit the Smithsonian, participate in round tables and workshops, and take tours of the Capitol.  We’re so glad to support these students and to have the opportunity to show off Texas YG’s work on a national stage!


March 7th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

High School State Conference 2018: A Photo Recap

We had a wonderful time at our 2018 High School State Conference January 26 and 27.  Take a walk down memory lane with us and enjoy our photo gallery below!

February 8th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

March on the Capitol Grounds

By Caden Ziegler

The Texas State Capitol is “The place where government and history happen every day,” according to the Bob Bullock Museum. Not only are state laws birthed here, but the building also holds significant meaning to the surrounding citizens. Many people choose the rotunda in the center of the Capitol to protest, as it is the vessel that connects the people to the government.

One such event is going on today, Jan. 27, regarding abortion rights. A pro-life rally is in attendance, as well as a counter-protesting pro-choice rally. Forty-five years ago, the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision of 1973 protected the right to abortion within the first trimester of the pregnancy.

The Texas Alliance for Life website states that “legal abortion in our nation has claimed the lives of more than 60 million unborn children and has hurt countless women and men.” Beginning around 1 p.m., the group marched toward the Capitol building from the Ministry Fair on North Congress.

The Austin Chronicle defines this Rally for Life as “one of Texas’ the biggest anti-abortion events.” Texas Alliance for Life claims that there will be thousands of attendees, the website has a call to arms, telling followers to “organize a bus or carpool of people from your church, youth group, or local pro-life organization to come.”

Katie Tahuahua has been involved with Alliance for Life since college, and said,  “We are here at the capitol for the Texas Rally for Life, which the Alliance for Life put on every year to bring pro-life people from across the state together to send a message to the capitol that we need to protect the unborn.”

“There are usually some protesters,” said Tahuahua. This year marks the fifth rally she has attended. Her boss, State Representative Isaac, helped write the sonogram bill. She said this bill requires that “women have a sonogram before they choose to have an abortion, [so] that they have completely informed consent with what they are doing.”

He also helped defund Planned Parenthood, so now all of their funding goes towards women’s health initiatives, providing birth control and health screenings to low income families. These initiatives do not provide abortion services.

Many people at the rally also took moderate views, believing that Roe v. Wade was wrong in allowing abortion so late into the pregnancy. One woman believed that abortion should be done in a shorter window of time, because there is scientific evidence that after a certain point the child/fetus can feel pain.

Roe v. Wade was a Supreme Court case that established a protocol for state involvement in cases of abortion. According to the case, states must legalize abortion in the first trimester, states may choose to limit abortion access in the second trimester, and states may ban abortion in the third trimester. A subsequent Supreme Court case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, extended abortion protections to ensure that limits to abortion access must not place an “undue burden” on the woman seeking an abortion.

Lexie Cooper is the President of the Austin chapter of NOW, the National Organization for Women. She and the Texas Handmaid’s, advocates of women’s reproductive rights, organized the counter protest that would meet the Rally for Life.

“I was raised Christian and I do strongly believe that a loving God would be pro-choice. I know that we have a lot of other religious people here who believe that as well,” Cooper said. The mass of people surrounding the Capitol was dotted with groups of sisters, religious women devoted to Jesus Christ but live in a convent rather than a monastery like nuns.

“We have a basic right, women can be free, abortion on demand and without apology,” shouted the protesters as they stood in front of the Capitol gates. On the South Grounds of the Capitol, a pro-life band played to greet the rally as they entered the grounds.

The Capitol is not only a government office or tourist destination, but a place where people come together, sometimes to express their differences, in hopes of building what they believe is a brighter future.

January 27th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Lions and Legislators

By Chloe Opelt

Although State Affairs and Legislative seem similar to some delegates, they are “actually quite different,” according to Claudia Huffman, a State Affairs delegate. State Affairs and Legislative delegates have weighed in on this topic, providing their opinions and knowledge of their duties at the YAG State Conference.

The similarities between the State Affairs and Legislative sections “mostly revolve around the debates,” according to Huffman.

“There are a lot of people that are very passionate about what they believe in and they like to debate as much as they can to get their voice out there,” she said. However, “they’re pretty much separate things,” she said.

Huffman mentioned “partners, a visual example, and pro-con debate speeches.” State Affairs proposals also pertain only to the state of Texas, while legislative bills concern all states, not just Texas. “State Affairs is a little more calm compared to legislative; sometimes [legislative students are] like lions at your throat,” said Huffman. “State Affairs can get like that too, not as often as Legislative though,” she said.

Wathila Ekanayake, a Legislative delegate, explained that Legislative and State Affairs are similar in that they “debate bills, make amendments, argue the pros and cons, and pass it based on the arguments made.”

“I feel like in legislative, when people are defending their ideas, they get really passionate and start to yell into the microphone,” said Ekanayake when asked about the severity of tones and volumes in the legislative sessions.

While the core processes of State Affairs and Legislative are similar, “they are very different things,” according to Huffman. “We have different ways of getting stuff done,” said Huffman as she expanded on her previous sentence. Huffman finished by stating that “they’re two separate groups for a reason.”

January 27th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Resources Increased for Sexual Assault Victims

By Skylar Sigala

As the last day of the Youth and Government competition comes to an end, one of the last bills being looked over by the Hyde Senate was penned by Taylor Ellis, and concerned protecting victims of sexual assault. It requires college campuses to offer victims of sexual assault rape test kits. These kits include standard sexual assault tests such as for DNA and will be conducted by a nurse. The bill received a favorable recommendation.

During the session Ellis explained how her bill would change college campuses. “One out of five girls are victims of sexual assault. Imagine that…We all know five girls, five women, five college students,” Ellis said when delivering her opening statement about her bill.

Ellis went on to describe sexual assault as “an epidemic,” and said, “It affects everyone … Reform for sexual assault on campus is reform for everyone.”

Her bill would require rape kits to be administered by nurses, who must inform the victim when their test is analyzed. Ellis also referenced various incidents when victims of sexual assault were college students, such as a recent incident at the University of Texas as Austin.

“The statistics of the bill are iffy,” said Georgia Cheng, a fellow senator, speaking in opposition to the bill. “What’s the point if many rape kits get tossed out or discarded after being collected?”

Emma LeBlanc spoke in support of the bill. “This bill is a step forward in the right direction. This is what we need to help victims [of sexual assault] feel safe,” she said.

“It’s very interesting to hear the different points people see on how this subject could be handled,” said Julianna Castillo, a clerk in the Hyde Senate. “She brought up an important matter about how girls in college often are unable to speak up about the incidents, and I believe that  this bill will help improve the lives of girls in college by knowing that there is a support system that this bill will provide.”

January 27th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments
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