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

Bill Mandates Increased Distance Between Victim and Attacker

By  Cidney Enriquez

Tina wakes up sweating in the middle of the night because of the thought of her being raped again. She immediately jumps out of bed and runs to check to make sure the door is locked. She then goes and checks the shower, the closet, and under the bed. Tina lives in fear of her rapist after he got out of prison, she is reminded every day as she is forced to pass by her attacker’s apartment. Her attacker lives in the same apartment complex as her.

In Texas today a sex offender is allowed to live 500 feet away from the victim – that’s the vicinity Texas has given perpetrators. Texas laws state that a rapist or sex offender in certain cities can’t live less than 2,000 feet away from a playground, school or church with a daycare center. In Oklahoma the perpetrator can live right next to their victim.

Maverick Gurisko, Sam Houston High School student from San Antonio has taken up this problem with an act to lower the distance between a sex offender and their victim for his Youth and Government legislative bill.  “I chose this bill because I saw a story about a woman named Danylle and she had been sexually assaulted fourteen years ago. Her rapist lived right next to her; he wanted to stop that from ever happening to anyone,” said Maverick.

During the discussion of the bill, one student brought up that she didn’t realize how much this bill could change the vicinity of where the sex offender could live. Another point a student brought up is that Texas has very small counties; if they made a bigger vicinity, sex offenders whose eventually have to leave their small towns. Maverick also said, “I wanted to enforce the bill that would establish a better distance between the victim and perpetrator.”

The bill passed unanimously. “I believe this bill is necessary, I did not know that an offender could live so close,” Renee Soria said. This bill is one that had a lot of people talking and really realizing how close they could live to someone who had hurt them in the past. Many students said they would like this bill to be passed in the real state legislature.

January 27th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Farabee Senate Passes Universal Background Check Bill

By Christina van Waasbergen

The Farabee Senate passed a bill requiring a background check for all gun purchases in the state of Texas. The bill now moves on to the Farabee House.

Rachel Browning, a junior from Christian Life Preparatory School, spoke in favor of this bill. She believes that it will help to maintain safety without violating people’s rights.

“[This bill] is not setting any strict limits that people in this box can’t get guns but people in this box can.” Browning said. “It’s just encouraging caution, and it allows for exceptions with people in unique situations.”

Bethany Bass, a senior from Garland High School, argued against this bill. She believes that preventing people with mental illness from buying guns is ableist.  

“Mental illness can range from schizophrenia to postpartum depression.” Bass said in her speech to the Senate. “Should a mother not be able to buy a gun to protect her children?”

January 27th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Adult Victims of Human Trafficking Gain Protection From Prostitution Charges

By Aubrey Burgess

The Hyde Senate bill number 55 is about human trafficking. The bill would protect someone forced into human trafficking when they are under 18 who breaks free when they are over 18, from being charged as a prostitute. The bill reflects the principle that he or she continues to be a victim. This bill would provide victims a better escape from their traffickers. The bill as amended also abolishes the age limit on the definition of human trafficking, so at any age if someone is trafficked they will not be accused of prostitution.

Two amendments to the bill were not passed. One was made to protect the victims that are illegal immigrants from being deported for 12 months, but after realizing that 12 months was not a long enough period the amendment writer asked the people to vote against his amendment. The second failed amendment would have raised the fine for the perpetrators.

“The bill is not to charge the people who have forced the victims into human trafficking but to protect the victim,” said the bill’s sponsor and presenter, Catherine Wismar, an 11th grader at Vista ridge High School. “One of the main problems was discerning between prostitution and human trafficking and I had a little bit of an issue trying to convince people that I wasn’t necessarily about legalizing prostitution; it was more so about protecting the people who have been human trafficked.”

Taylor Alice was for this bill saying, “We don’t have any personal experience. … Anyone who is forced to do something should not be prosecuted for it. …You can claim to be forced into human trafficking without evidence.” Another person who was for this bill is Kevin Way who believes that “there should be no age limit for trafficking,” and that this bill will solve that issue.

“The fines on this bill are absolutely dismal…Even if the fines were doubled they are absolutely dismal,” said Zachary Myer. “Also the bill writer has found no way of finding the difference between human trafficking and prostitution so a prostitute could claim to have been trafficked.”

“Coerced prostitution is one of the primary forms of exploitation that trafficked women and girls are subjected to in the developed world. Legalized prostitution allows traffickers to hide victims in plain sight as consenting sex workers. Legal or decriminalized pandering makes a portion of a sex trafficking victims venture legitimate. In recent decades, several countries have changed their policies and laws on prostitution. Because there is a positive correlation between commercial sex work, human trafficking and organized crime”, says the Huffington Post.

The bill passed after 30 minutes of arguments. “I think it went really well. I think that there was a lot of good debate about it and I am happy that it did get passed,” says Wismar.

January 27th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Senate Passes Bill Requiring Pharmaceutical-Sponsored Doctors to Inform Patients

By Christina van Waasbergen

Today the Farabee Senate unanimously passed a bill requiring doctors to inform their patients that they are paid by a pharmaceutical company to prescribe a certain drug. The Farabee House will now vote on this bill.

Andrew Lupton, a senior from Highland Park High School, argued in favor of the bill. He believes that it will help make sure patients get the drug that is best for them.

“Currently drug companies are able to have much too large of an influence over new prescriptions that patients are given.” Lupton said. “They are able to influence doctors to give patients a prescription that may not be the most effective or effective at all for them. This is effectively allowing the private sector to interfere with the well-being of Texas citizens.”

Nicole Bruner, a home-schooled junior from the Richardson delegation, argued against the bill. She said that she supported the bill overall, and that she spoke against it “mainly as a devil’s advocate” in order to point out the flaws in the bill. She believes that the government should go after drug companies, not doctors.

“The medical practitioners are the ones we’re supposed to be able to trust.” Bruner said. “The better way to enforce accountability [for what drugs are prescribed] is to investigate the [pharmaceutical] companies themselves and make sure they are the ones that are being punished if they are bribing people into using their brand, rather than the doctors who are just trying to make a living and keep us healthy.”
However, Bruner said that she ultimately voted for the bill because the bill’s author effectively addressed her concerns in his closing statement.

January 27th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments
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