“It’s different, I’m going off of zoom from last year, it feels so different,” current Chief Justice Brian Kang explained as he looked around the hotel lobby. “Seeing everyone, seeing people argue, not seeing people on the screen.” After the virtual meetings and conferences due to COVID-19, Kang looks forward to seeing faces that aren’t on a screen, and remembering the experiences he had just a few years ago in the same hotel. He was introduced to the Youth and Government program through an alumni in his school. He is part of a law program at his school, and was encouraged by a previous Chief Justice to join the club. Kang chose to join the trial court as an attorney in the appellate section, and was nervous for what would lie ahead.
As a freshman, Kang was surrounded by polished and experienced upperclassmen in trial court. He recalls his first day in district conference: “I think after the first day I met up with my people, I started crying, and I was overwhelmed with a lot of stuff.” He felt the pressure to be just as good, if not better, than the people around him.” At that point in time, I realized that I had a lot of room for improvement,” and that pushed him to become the Chief Justice he is today. His trial court in his freshman year also helped him grow the skills he needed, preparing him and encouraging him to do his best at state. Ultimately, he hopes that his experience in the Youth and Government program will fuel his future career as a lawyer.
This year, Kang has had the chance to see his brother participate in the same position he had as a freshman. “It’s weird to see him grow up,” he admits. “I don’t know what he wants to do in the future, if he’ll do this next year. But I support him in what he does.” Overall, he is proud of all the freshman teams. “I feel like with COVID-19, a lot of people took the time to really prepare.” And with this year’s state conference being delayed, people had more time to polish their skills. In the long run, Kang appreciates what he has learned from this program, and, most importantly, the people he has met. “I think this conference is really about the people that we’re with and the connections that we build, instead of what the program actually offers,” he fondly asserted.
Written by: Alanis Rodriguez
As you walk through the towering wooden doors of the entrance to the Texas State Capitol, and make your way into the grand foyer looking up in awe, of the dome reaching into the sky, you may feel excitement, pride, and a little bit overwhelmed. This weekend, April 21-24, 2022, student delegates participating in a variety of programs in Texas Youth and Government at the 75th YMCA Texas Youth and Government State Conference in the capitol building in Austin, Texas, felt this.
Onward and upward, the student delegates view the dome of the Capitol building from the ground floor.
Continuing to make your way down the Capitol halls, you see the student delegates in the judicial section debating in mock trial, student legislators proposing bills or joint resolutions for passing in the House and Senate chambers, the State Affairs Forum raising solutions to current issues, the governor’s cabinet and lobbyists working with the Youth Governor to lobby for bills or issues, and the media students documenting it all.
While many delegates love the State Conference, it can be a daunting experience for many first timers. Amarys Rodriguez and Hannah Robles, both from Sanders Law Magnet at Townview, described their first impressions of the conference in the Capitol to be “overwhelming and huge”. Robles adds, “I got lost for a long time. I almost started crying.”
This is Rodriguez’s and Robles’s first time being in person for the state conference since last year’s conference was online due to the spread of COVID-19. While they struggled with the overwhelming aspect of the conference at the Capitol, when asked about their overall experience with the State Conference Amarys said, “I loved it. I really hope to be back next year.” Robles continued by saying, “I’m glad this conference was postponed so we can do it in person.”
Rodriguez and Robles both recommended for any of the first time delegates to: “Carry a map, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Stick with someone who has been to State before.” They concluded with, “The system in place by the YG definitely makes it more enjoyable.”
For first time delegates, while the State Conference may be challenging, the experience is rewarding. By the end of the Conference, delegates have grown in ways not possible in the average school day setting.
Written by: Kristen Henderson
4,421 years ago, around 2400 BCE, the concept of prostitution was first recorded on Ancient Summerian tablets believed to have listed the various roles of the cult of Inanna, a Summerian deity associated with love. Following its early conceptualization, prostitution has endured the test of time and remains part of modern day society. Disregarding the persistence of sex work, todays policies have illegalized prostitution and has labelled it as filthy and demoralizing. Young legislator Zoe Constanza, convinced that prostitution has been handled unreasonably, has written a bill proposing the legalization and regulation of prostitution. Shocking Constanza, her approach has been accepted by many in the House of Representatives (HR).
Sex work is often blamed for the spread of STDs, for the destruction of marriages, and for the abandonment of morality. Zoe Constanza, however, argues that it is immoral to illegalize prostitution, “Sex work may be immoral, but the fact that it’s never going to end is more important. It’s called the oldest profession for a reason, it will always exist. So we should make sure its safe for the people that partake, particularly prostitutes which are fourty times more likely to be murdered than the average American.” She’s determined that through the protection of the law and regulation, prostitution can become a safe and healthy profession. Furthermore, the regulation of sex work, Zoey says, could potentially become a way to combat human trafficking.
Ian Bock, another legislator in the HR, though deeply impressed by Constanza’s competence and bill, isn’t convinced that her bill will do away with the dangers of prostitution. “All this bill did was give legalization for brothels,” said Bock, “ and it only decriminalized all sex work, so there will no longer be patrols out making sure that minors aren’t participating in sex work and being abused.” Bock, instead, calls for various amendments to this bill. These include constant vigilance over sex work and consistent testing for STDs.
For the longest of time, sex work has often required for prostitutes to sell their body away, introducing various moral problems. However, policy should be there to keep the people as safe and prosperous as possible. Whilst Constanza attempts to achieve this for sex workers, this is a complex issue that requires complex solutions. We can only hope that legislators keep building upon Constanza’s initial effort.
HR legislator, Theodore Vance, inquiring about the bill in question, consumed by the tabooness of the subject and ready to interact with what seems to be a revolutionary idea.
Written by: Luis Fuentes
The Texas YMCA Youth and Government (YG) program came to be 86 years ago. It was founded in New York by Clement Duran. The motto of the program is “Democracy must be learned by each generation,” which was said by Earl T. Hawkins who established the Maryland Youth and Government. YG is an important step in learning about policies and government. It’s crucial for the younger generation to know about the world around them and how it operates, not only for their sake but for the sake of their families and their future children and grandchildren.
YG teaches the new generations about democracy and makes them able to understand the many different features of the U.S. Government. For example, there are six different sections to choose from: Legislative, Judicial, Media, State Affairs, Governor’s Cabinet, Lobbyist, and Candidates. Students in YG are ecstatic to have an opportunity to learn about the divergent aspects of government. Delegate Cooper Baldwin, from the Austin delegation, says, “I have been a part of YG since I was a junior, but I have already learned so much just by participating and learning about the ideas that I would have never thought of. I believe it is important to be able to think outside of the box in how you could make the world a better place starting with making better policies. I would say that YG is helping build a better future for the new generations by preparing so many people that want to be included in politics and government.”
Change starts with policies. In order to know how to make a change, you would need to have an idea of how the government works because putting policies in order is the only way to get change. Even if someone did not want to have a career in government, they should still know how it works and how important it is to be involved. Although some kids here aren’t able to do their part by voting, they are doing their part by being a part of YG and learning how the government systems work. Simone Moton, from the Austin delegation, says, “Although I am not a part of the actual government part of the conference, I am still learning so much about the way things work and just being able to listen to people talk about their bills and hearing about the trials and the way they work is so amazing. I love being able to interview people about things because I am more interested in the media part. I think that may be one of the most important roles in society because that is how Americans and people around the world get their information about what is going on.” YG students from media to legislation are happy to learn about all sides of the process in order to better the world.
Youth and Government is a program that is there to help the youth because knowing about the government is one of the most important things to do. The program also offers Media so students can gain skills reporting and know what the job of the media is truly like. The YG government is an important step in learning about the government and its policies for youth all over the nation. The Texas YMCA Youth and Government is making the world a better place by making the youth better people.
Written by: Devan Hodges
Mental health is a growing problem in America, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these concerns. According to Michigan University, anxiety and depression in teens have increased by as much as 36% and 31%, respectively, since the beginning of the pandemic. And in December of 2021, the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy even went as far as to issue an advisory on America’s “youth mental health crisis”. In his advisory, Murthy urged individuals, families, community organizations, and companies to step in whatever way they could to improve the mental health of teens.
However, despite this warning from the Surgeon General himself, the majority of schools have changed little about the way they operate to better support the students they are meant to serve. House bill 38 (HB038) attempts to change this. HB038 proposes that schools be required to provide students with three excused “mental health” days off from school per month. These days would give students a chance to de-stress during periods of high anxiety or when they are struggling with other mental health concerns.
Mental health days are not a cure-all to long-term mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety, but studies have shown that they can still have a significant positive impact on students. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 93% of managers surveyed report that taking time off increased employee motivation. Although this survey was conducted in workplaces, not schools, students would likely also experience this increase in motivation after taking time off during a “mental health day,” due to the similar nature of both of these institutions. Additionally, a 2020 survey by Mental Health America found that nearly 50% of teens would like to learn how to care for their own mental health needs. Learning when to take time off from school or work to prioritize your own well-being would help teens learn to care for themselves and give them coping skills they can use once they graduate high school or college.
A law that gives students the right to take days off for mental concerns is not a new, or even unpopular, idea. According to the New York Times, nine states have passed laws that give students time off for mental health issues in the last two years alone. And according to a Harris Poll conducted in 2020, 78% of students believe that teenagers need mental health days in order to take care of themselves. Mental Health America even reports that more than half of teenagers believe that a break from school is the action that would have the greatest positive impact on their mental health.
Lastly, having mental health days be a legitimate part of school attendance policies would validate students struggling with anxiety and depression, as well as destigmatize taking time off to care for yourself. In a culture where it can be seen as a badge of honor to restrict your sleep and sacrifice your health for grades, encouraging students to take days off could grant permission to teenagers who might not feel comfortable missing school otherwise.
Of course, there is always a risk that teenagers who miss school will fall behind, but experts argue that teenagers cannot take in the things they are learning in school if they are dealing with a mental health condition anyway. And overall, the potential benefits of mental health days outweigh the potential downsides– improved well-being is worth the annoyance of a missed math test or late homework assignment. House bill 38 effectively addresses teenage mental health and could have the ability to significantly lower anxiety and depression in high schoolers. If government officials really care about the well-being of their constituents, then they must pass this bill and give students the right to prioritize their health.
Written by: Delia Rune
The Texas YMCA Youth and Government program has a long and sophisticated history, extending over 7 decades prior to today and including thousands of students. Because of its highly respected past and the professional environment of the organization, a strict dress code is required for all students to follow. Through the artistic lens of the YMCA guidelines, many students take the opportunity to express their unique, creative styles and aesthetics through the way they dress.
The dress code, called for by the YMCA, describes a professional, neutral outfit meant to portray the sincerity and professionalism of the Youth and Government conferences. Despite the supposed similarities of dress between students, they actually tend to differentiate often.
Many suits are specially tailored in their own way, and jackets often show as a dark blue, green, red, or more. Shirts worn under blazers and coats are typically very different in their designs, showing threaded motifs and patterns, buttons and pockets, and all in every color of the rainbow. Students wear shiny or suede shoes and classy loafers, along with all kinds of heels, flats, or pumps.
And not only outfits influence the radiant confidence these students manifest; hair and makeup, accessories, even the bags and briefcases holding propositions and notes accentuate each and every student’s individual ensembles. Here are a few Youth and Government participants explaining their choice of outfit and what it means to them.
Ryder Trent, of Broadcast Media, is wearing gray pants, a classy purple button-up dress shirt, and unique diamond-patterned socks. He asserts, “(This outfit) makes me feel confident in myself and my ability to do my job.” Confidence in yourself is essential to Youth and Government as a whole, especially at the Texas Capitol, in which every student is challenged to present multiple projects, pieces or presentations over a few days. Being optimistic and secure in the way you represent yourself, your faction, and your school will always help your skills for Youth and Government organizations.
Pictured above is freshman broadcast media delegate Ryder Trent.
Evan Lee, the Social Media Editor in Chief, wears a deep indigo-blue suit which stands out against the black-suited crowd. He explains, ¨Being a part of Youth and Government for 7 years makes outfits seem repetitive… I wear different clothes to stand out.¨ Lee spoke of how he once wore an outfit combining baby blue and pale pink, which made him recognizable to others. This expression combines composure and confidence, two necessary mindsets to have at Youth and Government conferences. Being able to be easily distinguishable from within a large group can help with the way others perceive you. Along with implementing the style you enjoy into your professional way of dress, your confidence at Youth and Government, and your recognizable look can immensely help the way you conduct yourself and the image you project in trial, debate, or interviews.
Social Media State Officer Evan Lee showing off his Sean John indigo-blue suit.
Zoe Costanza, a House of Representative Delegate, wears a lightly checkered black-and-white blazer over a sharp black minidress and platform block heels. She says, “How’s a delegate supposed to girlboss without heels?” Her outfits show her creativity in her professional appearance by applying the clothes and aesthetics she likes into the diligent courthouse dress code. This kind of expression combines personal interests with public rule. What many people find beneficial in Youth and Government conferences is assimilating familiar aesthetics into the YMCA dress code, which, especially to newcomers, can seem stressful, strict, or plain. Being able to wear something you enjoy wearing, while still adhering to the proper dress code guidelines, is a fantastic source of self-assurance, comfort, and certainty of one’s own abilities in a court setting.
No matter what you choose to wear at Youth and Government, your ever-present unique and artistic touches to your outfits and appearance can all help your overall productivity, confidence, and happiness. Always have fun with your style in Youth and Government!
Written by: Abigail Adams
As day two of the Texas Youth and Government Conference (YG) commenced, State Affairs (SAF) delegates Joshua Lee and Raphael Caballes found themselves on the proposal docket for General Assembly (GA).Prior to their opening remarks, proposal number 43 entitled Sex Education Reform stirred mixed feelings, but for the wrong reasons. While the attention should’ve been on the general debate of the proposal, a memorable argument was centered towards the amendment period.
Previous to Lee and Caballes’ proposal, a motion was passed to limit the number of amendments to four speakers. The commotion commenced when a delegate trying to get their amendment heard, asked for a motion to shuffle amendments, which was recognized by appointed proposal Chair Shmeis. As the motion was getting voted on, another delegate suggested a motion to shuffle amendments for every proposal, including the current one.
A concerned delegate questioned this motive, “Point of Inquiry! Wasn’t there a motion passed already regarding the amendment period?”.
Left and right, Point of Inquiries were heard throughout the Trinity room as confused students questioned the integrity of the recent motion and time restrictions. One delegate argued that they couldn’t shuffle amendments, while another quickly countered that by stating it would be at the discretion of the chair.
Chair Shmeis decided to recognize the motion as delegates shouted their disapproval in apparent ‘BOO’s’. Shmeis, under pressure, stated that this would be the last proposal she chairs, presumably due to the disapproval. Ultimately, Shemis called for ‘I’s’ in approval and ‘Nay’s’ in disapproval to be heard, concluding the ‘I’s’ as the majority.
While all thought this disagreement ended, division was called by most “Nay’s’ in an attempt to set a recount. Quickly, Point of Order was called in an attempt to question the chair’s counting motives. “Point of Order! Isn’t the chair supposed to count division according to the handbook?’ questioned Madison Irvin. The chair called the room to order and concluded her final decision of a recount.
After the long-awaited recount, the result was final: amendments will NOT be shuffled.
Written by: Jacqueline Chavez
Joining Youth and Government as a rookie is intimidating and a surplus of questions comes with it. What’s the difference between Business Professional and Business Casual? How does everyone seem to know everyone? What is going on? All of these are valid, common questions and some are answered through time and experience. Some, on the other hand, the senior participants and I can give you a jumpstart on, to make your first Youth and Government State Conference, the best it can be.
In the easiest terms, there are five sections: Trial Court, Legislative, State Affairs, Appellate, and Media. Trial Court and Appellate’s sections are based on real world court cases, either depicting these cases through their own personalization or diving deep into the court’s decision, making sure it’s the right one. The Legislative and State Affairs section spend time discussing and amending different bills and proposals, general bills and proposals significant to real world problems. The Media section serves as reporters during this conference, informing everyone of the ins and outs of this competition through multiple forms of media.
Looking at the social aspects of this conference, it seems like everyone is familiar with each other. This familiarity of many of the delegates isn’t a conspiracy, just experience! Through every section, participants are exposed to a variety of people every year, and we get the chance to talk to a lot of people, even making friends along the way.
It’s important to remember though, there’s etiquette for every section to keep the submersion smooth with respect, being the most significant. Section etiquette isn’t only social, but physical too, through the clothes you wear, whether business attire or casual. Business attire is used for the main portion of our competition, and usually consists of pantsuits, skirts, button ups and slacks, or suit and ties so you can formally look your best for each other and at the areas you go. With Business attire out of the way, Business casual is easier to understand as a more comfortable version of the former. A lot of times here at competition you’ll see sweaters, slacks, khakis, nice blouses, and comfortable shoes for Business casual. You still want to look nice, but more comfortable while we do it!
In an interview with Angelyna Huag, 3 year participant and Judge, she gives some advice for Trial court newbies. “Fake it til’ you make it. Even if you don’t know what you’re saying exactly, just say it with confidence!” explains Huag. Not only for trial court, but for newbies in many of the sections, “Don’t be too worried about what’s going on because it’s very hectic” says Eowng Barbosa, an interviewee from Photojournalism Media, “There’s always people you can ask for help!” Everyone’s first time is scary and confusing, but the best way to overcome that is to jump in and learn along the way through the experience.
State conference isn’t just all work, but a time to enjoy yourself too! After a long day of taking buses, working through trials and bills, or writing pieces, all participants get the chance to eat out and have fun in some social activities with other kids. At the mixer there’s multiple activities like karaoke, board games, arcade games, painting, and photos with friends! It’s a great time to socialize with other participants and make friends. On the second night, there’s a banquet where a delicious meal is provided for all of the participants. These off-times are a wonderful period to relax from the long day.
However many questions one has, the most important thing to remember here at the state conference is to have fun! After participating for 2 years, my favorite aspects here are always the people I meet and the fun social activities Youth and Government has for us to do. It’s an exciting contrast in anyone’s normal routine and is worth the experience.
Written by: LeeAnn Partin
Setbacks of Running in an Online Election
After the immense spread of the viral respiratory infection, COVID-19, the world promptly went into a lockdown mandate. The use of technology skyrocketed to rates that have never been seen before. The closure of education systems such as public, private, and non-profit, impacted the way we, as a society, intercommunicated and executed our social and communication performances.
One of the matters affected by the spread of COVID-19 was the Youth and Government program (YG). Something, which was once in-person, was quickly shifted to a virtual setting, which to some, was deemed almost impossible. Regardless of the setback, most delegates made it their mission to prosper.
Despite the sections’ accommodations, candidates running for office had a much more challenging task at hand.
When Evan Lee decided to participate as a candidate, he couldn’t fathom how the online process would affect his second-to-last year in YG. As a Social Media Editor-in-Chief candidate, Lee experienced the online election firsthand. “I’m a big talker, and I didn’t like the fact that I couldn’t talk to people,” stated Lee. “It made me feel like I had less of a chance of connecting with delegates.” Although Lee won his election unopposed, his feelings for the election process remain mixed. “I don’t think I wouldn’t run again in an online setting, but I’m not going to necessarily opt for it,” Lee said.
The current YG Governor has thoughts on this too. “Not being in-person kind of deflected the connections that the State Conference was supposed to establish,” Youth Governor Jaalen Robinson remarked regarding his candidate election. “Campaigning was both easy and hard. On the easy aspect, I can use different social media platforms to get my name across, such as Instagram and Twitter, and on the difficult aspect, it was hard making that connection and getting people to remember my name.”
When asked if he would ever run in another online election, Robinson responded with a firm ‘NO’. “I would never run in another online election because I believe that you just lose a lot of supporters if you do it online,” said Youth Governor Robinson. “I don’t feel like you’re getting the raw motion of the candidates and seeing what their true intentions are with their campaign.” Despite Robinson winning the Youth Governor election, he expressed his preference to only ever run in an in-person campaign setting.
Although each candidate experienced their own complications during their online election, the Youth and Government election prospects came back stronger than ever for the 75th-anniversary conference.
Written by: Jacqueline Chavez