We are excited to announce the 24 students who will represent Texas at this year’s Conference on National Affairs (CONA)! We look forward to seeing their accomplishments this summer at YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly, North Carolina!
Last week, two of our Texas YG students visited Washington D.C. to advocate on behalf of the YMCA. We are proud to share that Diomarvellous Nsofor (Houston) and Grayson Winchester (Ft. Worth) represented Texas in this opportunity! They spent several days sharing their passions through advocacy and civic engagement at a national level.
Each year, Youth and Government programs across the nation participate in Y-USA’s National Advocacy Days. Youth Advocates meet with legislators to discuss Y-USA’s legislative priorities. This year, Diomarvellous and Grayson advocated for funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which create academic enrichment opportunities for school-aged children, and support for drowning prevention campaigns across the nation.
Diomarvellous and Grayson met with the offices of six Representatives during their experience in Washington D.C. – Rep. Dan Crenshaw (Texas’s 2nd congressional district), Rep. Pete Olson (Texas’s 22nd congressional district), Rep. Joaquin Castro (Texas’s 20th congressional district), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas’s 18th congressional district), Rep. Sylvia Garcia (Texas’s 29th congressional district), and Rep. Michael McCaul (Texas’s 10th congressional district). They also had the opportunity to present Rep. Colin Allred (Texas’s 32nd congressional district) with the Congressional Champion award. This award is presented to legislators who are committed to the Y’s areas of focus of youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. Additionally, they engaged with Angela Castilleja, Texas YG State Director, David Lopez, YMCA of Greater Houston and Texas State Alliances of YMCAs, Marie Arcos, YMCA of Greater Houston, and Jess Stuart, Community Development Executive of YMCA of Greater Houston. When they were not meeting with legislators, students participated in round table discussions and workshops with Youth Advocates from across the country. We’re so proud of Diomarvellous and Grayson’s efforts in Capitol Hill!
Grayson and Dio presenting the Congressional Champion award to Rep. Colin Allred
Our Youth Advocates preparing to meet with Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s office
Meeting with the office of Rep. Joaquin Castro
Rep. Olson made Dio and Grayson pinky promise they would never run against him for office
Introducing your new YG and JYG Youth Governors, YG students elected them during the State Conference this year. Look below to read about them!
High School Youth Governor
What was your experience as a Governor Candidate during the State Conference like?
Being a Governor Candidate was such an amazing experience. I had the opportunity to learn about and witness what happens in each program section. I have spent all of my years in the legislative section, so it was very exciting to get a better understanding of what occurs in each section. During the course of the weekend, I met so many different people, which was exciting but also nerve-wracking because I can be very shy, but that’s what this program is all about. We are learning how to step out of our comfort zones. Something that shocked me most about being a candidate was the amount of free time that I had.I have gotten used to being busy from the beginning of the day to the end of the day, so it felt strange having so much time for ourselves, Having so much time gave me the chance to actually meet and get to know my fellow delegates. Also, it was a great experience to run against some of the brightest and determined people that I have ever met. I am glad to have had the chance to meet such passionate and driven people.
What most excites you about the platform you ran on?
I am most excited that my fellow delegates chose a candidate who believes in the power that they hold. My platform was based on making sure that every delegate realizes their potential to make a difference right now, rather than waiting until the future to get involved. With the way the world is changing and evolving, the youth need someone who believes in them and wants to empower them. the fact that I am a female was not the main focus of my campaign. I believe that the delegates who participate in this program were ready for a big change. After almost 10 years without a female Youth Governor, I definitely believe that this election opened the door for other women in the program who would like to run for office in the future.
What are some key policies you would like to highlight during your term as Governor?
As governor, my ultimate goal is to help my fellow delegates to realize that every one of us has the power to make a change today, but it is up to each of us to use that power and get involved. The best way to enhance this program is to start from the ground up. During my term, I will work to start Youth and Government summer camps for students who are new to the program and those who are returning. This will give students an opportunity to learn about the program before the official start in the fall and it will allow students to have an easier transition between each program section. Secondly, I would like to reinstate the Youth Commission section. The Youth Commission provides delegates the chance to experience each section allowing them a chance to really learn what section would best suit their individual talents and needs. Lastly, I am looking into securing funding for a scholarship awared to two seniors in each program section who have shown exemplary participation and exhibit the YMCA’s core values of respect, responsibility, honesty and caring.
During my term, I want to sign bills that focus on the well-being of Texas Citizens. It is important to me to sign bills that will keep Texas Police officers safe and accountable by requiring officers to patrol in a buddy system and wear body cameras while on duty. Laws like these will keep officers safe by ensuring that they have back up and it will keep them accountable because their action on duty will be monitored. Also, legislation that ends the privatization of prisons and that promotes the rehabilitation of prisoners rather than the punishment of prisoners.
How long have you been with YG? What is your favorite moment in YG?
I have been in Youth and Government since I was in seventh grade. My school’s Youth and Government starts in seventh grade. So, I had to wait a year before joining. It turned out to be the best wait of my life. That was when I discovered my love for learning how our government functions. I’ve loved every minute of my time in the program.
It is very hard to pick just one favorite memory during my time in Youth and Government. My absolute favorite memory actually is not just one event, but it was my experience at this year’s State Conference. In the past, I have always been busy debating and running around the State Capital, but this was the first time that I was able to meet and connect with delegates in each program section. I gained a deeper understanding of why each section is just as important as the next. This year I also made more friends than I ever had because I the time to get to know the people outside of my section. Once I was elected, a number of my fellow delegates expressed that they felt as though they finally had representation within the program and that their voices would be heard. I am honored to have the opportunity to represent those who have felt overlooked within Youth and Government.
Do you have any advice for other delegates?
The most important piece of advice that I could give to my fellow delegates is to get involved. Not only are we the leaders of tomorrow, we are also the leaders of today. We all possess the potential to have a lasting impact in the world. Find what drives you and put your all into it. Whether it be Youth and Government, sports, or fine arts, you can not make a difference without being passionately involved. Also, go into everything with an open mind. Despite your race, background, or beliefs there is something that can be learned from everyone.
Thank you for sharing Tadiwa!
Middle School Youth Governor
What was your experience as a Governor Candidate during the State Conference like?
My experience was very enjoyable. I liked meeting new people, making new friends, and getting to know many of them. I really enjoyed going from section to section and watching these delegates debate. I learned a lot from the delegates this year.
What most excites you about the platform you ran on?
My platform points are recruiting more advisors, expanding smaller delegations, and assisting underprivileged people financially so that they could come to the State Conference. I am passionate about my third platform because we can give delegates an opportunity to experience something as great as the State Conference. Also, by recruiting more advisors and expanding smaller delegations, we are developing future leaders across the state.
What are some key policies you would like to highlight during your term as Governor?
Improving overall health and wellness (Mental & Physical), Improving the Education System, Measures Against Gun Violence, Criminal Justice, and Improving Texas’ Infrastructure. These are all the policies that I feel could be improved with the help of some well-thought out and effective bills.
How long have you been in YG? What is your favorite moment in YG?
I have been in the YG program since 6th grade. Last year, as a sixth grader, I was a bit anxious and didn’t know what to expect before my first competition. This year, I mentored and helped out 6th graders so that they could feel more confident about themselves. My favorite moment in YG is when I saw their faces light up whenever they won an award at the conferences.
Do you have any advice for other delegates?
Make sure you always give your 100%. This is a great opportunity to develop your public speaking skills. Maintain good body language throughout the conferences and let your voice spread across the room. Vocal inflection is important when trying to persuade people to vote for your bills and proposals. And most importantly, make friends and have fun!
Thank you for sharing Diya!
We’re so excited to see what you both accomplish during your term as Governor!
We are so excited Roslyn Ramon, our 2019 YG Social Media Editor, is able to attend our Middle School Conference! She has prepared a blog post for you regarding our JYG Middle School Conference.
“You look at everyone now and you think, ‘these middle school delegates are the future leaders’. You see how much stress, thought, and time everyone has put into their section. You wonder, ‘is it worth it?’ The truth is yes. Yes it’s worth it. These delegates don’t have to do what they are doing, but these young and future leaders understand that if you work hard now, life will only be a walk in the park. They and everyone around them want the future to not only be exceptional, but to be amazing. This all goes to show at the 2019 JYG State Conference in Austin, Texas.”
Meet Britney Butler, your new Youth and Government intern. Britney is a Senior at Texas State University majoring in Public Relations Mass Communications, and minoring in Business Administrations. Britney joined the YG team this February to gain real world experience in the field she will pursue after graduation in May.
What drew you to Texas Youth and Government?
During high school I worked as a lifeguard at the YMCA in Bastrop Texas. Having such a great experience I decided to apply when I learned about the Youth and Government position. I love working with children, and would love to be a part of educating them into the next leaders of the world. I believe teaching young children about government is very important for todays society, and for the future society. I’m extremely excited to have the opportunity to work with the YG, I believe this is the perfect opportunity to help me get on my feet after graduation.
When you’re not busy with school and Texas YG, what do you do in your free time?
I have been a part of the Texas State PRSSA student organization on campus for the past two years, I enjoy spending time with my friends and family, and last I love traveling and going to concerts.
Share 3 fun facts about you.
In my free time I like to work with adobe software, more specifically adobe premiere and after effects. I love working and learning about videography. I’m a big fan of watching YouTube, my favorite vlogers are Shane Dawson and Safiya Nygaard. After I graduate I hope I have the opportunity to travel more, and my ultimate goal is to travel Europe.
Thank you for sharing, Britney! We’re very excited to have you on the Texas YG team.
By Gabi Jensen
This photo essay shows the essence of journalism; the people are talking, their stories are what need to be heard. Youth and Government has given them their voice, and I hope this helps project it. For the past three days these people have been working tirelessly, not to mention the months of preparation that was put into this program, they’ve been debating and showcasing and finding new angles and ultimately competing. They’ve been trying their best and learning new lessons about who they are and what they can improve for next year. These are their personal testimonies.
Sophia Bannerot, 12th grader from Worth, Brenbrook YMCA, has been in Youth and Government for 4 years. She’s been apart of the judicial branch the whole time and worked her way to the position of judge. “I thought it would be kind of fun, I wanted to be a witness because I heard it would be kind of like acting, and I’ve always been into drama and at first this was a cheaper alternative to drama, but then I got really into it.” said Bannerot. She explained that speaking in front of people used to be a struggle for her but “[she] thinks it’s a good experience especially for introverted people because it teaches [them] how to go out and meet and talk to people in large groups.” Although starting the club with the idea that it was a supplement for something she loved more, she found a passion and a hobby. Despite not currently planning on going into a career regarding politics she said that the training and experience she’s encountered has definitely given her the ability to try for one if she were to change her mind.
Susanne Mabie has worked with Texas YG for over 30 years, she’s been state director of Texas Youth and Government for 14 years, a branch director in Houston, and branch directed in Louisiana. Despite the titles, what makes Susanne passionate about this organization is seeing the teenagers grow up and actually develop careers in law and government. “Seeing these people come back made me really see the value in giving a voice to today’s youth.” she elaborates. Despite having retired, she remains one of the YMCA’s key volunteers.
Dawson Noltensmryer, Ft. Bend Branch Highschool Club, Fort Bend YMCA, has been in the program for three years and this has been his second year as an attorney, remaining in judicial for all three years. Both of his siblings had done it and his friends had done this program so he decided “maybe it’d be fun.” He explains that he is a lot more outgoing now and comfortable with public speaking. “I’d say my entire personality has changed, I’m no longer scared to be myself and to have my voice heard and I actually Credit it that to Youth and Government.” Noltensmryer furthers.
Analisa Gutierrez, 11th grader from Boyd High school, McKinney YMCA, joined to become a better speaker. Her goal is to actually be in the FBI and after that continue on with a different government job. “Honestly this program has just helped me be more prepared to succeed and given me a pathway into adulthood.” she explains. She believes that this program teaches you to never doubt yourself but to always work on yourself. She explains that she would not be the same without this program.
Chase Patterson, 10th grader from Hyde park, North Austin YMCA, joined because he likes debating and hearing other people’s ideas. “They help me strengthen my own.” he explains. He plans on going into a career with a mix of law and politics “along the lines of attorney general honestly.” Our youth are our voice and “with each passing year we need to constantly be aware of fake news and the ideas circulating, we need to be able to form our own ideas otherwise we’ll fall subject to everyone else’s mind.” His stance is that if you’re even thinking about joining youth and government that you should go for it.
Mathew Grimm, 11th grader from Ceder Park Highschool, Williamson co. YMCA, initially was interested in pursuing a career in engineering, however, Texas YG changed that. He now wishes to peruse a career in politics after two years of being in the legislative branch, both Hyde house and the House. “I believe this program is important to today’s youth because it allows us to experience what it’s like in a politicians shoes and conveys the knowledge we need to succeed. It’s like a stepping stone…do whatever you want, make a fun bill make a serious one, just give it a chance, it won’t let you down.” said Grimm.
Vivienne Garner, 10th grader from Boyd Highschool, McKinney YMCA, has been in Texas YG for five years, her origin story is a tad different, she didn’t just stumble upon the group, she was lead to it. “My 6th grade history teacher basically forced me to try it out and said ‘look if you don’t like it you don’t have to do it again’ but I just fell I love.” Despite not planning on going into a career in politics she still found a hobby with this club and found solstice within it which I think resembles a lot of the reasons you should try new things. “This has pushed me out of my comfort zone and shown me how to not be afraid of talking in front of people, like going into job interviews, I won’t be stressed because I know what to do. Youth and Government prepares you for a lot more than you realize.” Her top advice is to just give it a shot, there’s nothing but good that could come from it and if you hate it you don’t have to come back.
Bethel Bekele, 12th grader from Creek-View high school, Coppell YMCA. Despite being a senior in Highschool this is Bekele’s first year in Texas Youth and Government (Texas YG). “Last year I just realized that I really had a passion for law. I really enjoyed Government.” said Bekele. She plans on majoring in her undergrad with political science and after that, possibly law school. “This process has definitely helped me decide on who I am and what I want to be. It’s helped me realize that I want to be an attourney. It’s shown me what I’m good at and what I need to work on. And I think that’s the point of this program, to help you grow.” Bekele’s advice for anyone thinking about joining youth and government is to do it despite the terror it may instill. “It’s the most professional and hardworking group I’ve ever been apart of and it’s honestly life changing.” she explains.
As Miley Cyrus says “it’s not about what’s waiting on the other side, it’s the climb.” The important thing to take away from this essay is that everyone deserves to be heard and seen and that’s what Texas YG has done for so many people. These students show in their words and in their choices how this program has personally benefitted them and how appreciative they are of it and t that should give us hope for our next generation. We are the future. We are the change.
By Alison Torres
Attorney Melanie Hernandez is presenting her opening statement. “We’re here today as we sit here mourning the loss of Chassity Barnes’s young life due to someone’s selfish and thoughtless actions, because that’s exactly what this is. When the defendant decided to sit behind the wheel after a night out drinking with his friends, he was being selfish.” says delegate Hernandez as the opening to her speech.
Delegate Nikki Desai begins her opening remarks, “Good morning your honor, my name is Nikki Desai and I’m here with my partner on the behalf of the defence. On June 30th, 2018 the defendant went through a few bumps, had some laughs, made some memories and proceeded to drive as usual, only to be distracted by an old lady following him, one who wasn’t even wearing her prescription glasses while driving.”
Delegate Stephanie Gonzales answers questions as Imani Haynes being a witness of the crash. Prosecution asks delegate Gonzales, “what did you see before the crash?” She replies, “before the crash I saw that there was a vehicle swerving in between the left and right lane.”
“What did you do after seeing this?”
“After viewing this I called the police.”
“What happened after the crash?”
“After the crash I pulled over and went to go check on the passengers, I noticed there was this severely injured girl,” says Stephanie Gonzales.
Prosecution is attempting to enter Emerald Hayne (played by Gabriel Magee) as an expert in chemistry with the specialty in blood analysis. The Defence (Nikki Desai) states, “this is far too broad for this to be entered as expert analysis. Furthermore, delegate does not reach two out of the five requirements, there’s no record to show how long he’s been working, therefore, he does not meet the experience required to be an expert.” The judge rules him as an expert in chemistry with specialty in blood analysis.
Attorney Jenelle Murata questions Urban Rhodes.
“Is this a receipt from the bar that you work at?”
Rhodes responds, “I don’t recognize that document.”
Prosecution attempts to put the receipt into evidence, the defence objects, delegate Aanika Kashap states “My witness has not been able to validate the authenticity of this document therefore it is not admissible into evidence.” The judge decides to enter the receipt into evidence.
Urban Rhodes is a bartender at the bar that the group attended the night of the crash.
“And you gave him three shots of whiskey correct?” asks the prosecution attorney Jenelle Murata. He replies with “I gave him a round of shots.”
The prosecution follows up with “how many is a round of shots?”
Finally Rhodes replies with “Three shots.”
Delegate Erin Crittendon, playing Dr.Sidney Tate, is being questioned. She is a vital part of the defense since she’s the one that took the measurements of the alcohol level in the defendant.
“What field is your PhD in?” she was asked.
She responds with, “In Education.”
Prosecution then asks “So it’s not in biology or chemistry?”
She responds no.
Officer Jordan Cole is being questioned as the prosecution tries to put something in evidence. “No it has not,” says Officer Jordan Cole while being questioned if her SFST paperwork was tampered with. The paperwork gets entered into evidence as exhibit “a.”
Defence Attorney Jerell Moody is questioning a witness when he gets interrupted by the prosecution. Moody asks, “when he (the defendant) asked for an attorney why wasn’t he given one?” The defence is then interrupted by prosecution with an objection, the defense is asked to restate their question.
“Will everyone please stand as the judge walks in.” says bailiff Alex Horton. All delegates rise and the court is started. The attorneys are asked if they are ready to begin and the witnesses go under oath raising their right hand to promise to tell the truth and nothing but the truth.
By Nathan Henderson
A collection of photos from Nathan Henderson taken on January 26, 2019. All photos were taken during the YMCA Youth and Government state conferance.
The Chamber Commences
The Chamber of the 72nd YMCA Student Legislature commenced in an orderly fashion on Saturday, January 25, 2018. Led by the senate chairs, deliberation continued until 5 pm where the senators ajorned and returned to the hotel. Five bills were proposed varying in subject material greatly. Overall, the senators sparked continuous debate on the proposed bills.
Introduction into the First Bill
Proposed by Caleb Zhang, bill FS062 states, “an act eliminating automatic addmissions requirements at all public universites and declaring an emergency.” Senator Caleb Zhang started his speech with an explanation of the bill as well as additionally giving background information to why the bill was written. He states that “universities should consider a more wholeistic view of a college application.” This would promote equal opportunites for all students by allowing for universities to consider the whole application of the student.
The Arguement Begins
Senator Zhang provided research for his arguement. He stated in his opening remarks, “colleges must admit the top ten percent to university.” Zhang continued to illustrate his point by saying that automatic admissions do not properly take into consideraton the merit of the student. He said that automatic admissions only focus on grades and not on SAT score or other forms of student academic achivement. Other than helping students get admitted into universiies, Senator Zhang argued otherwise.
Senator Lily Sethre-Brink took to the stand to explain her opposition to the bill. Her arguement was that low income students have more obligations. Frankly, low income students will not have enough time to complete extracurricular activites to go on their transcript. She said that the bill favored higher income students who had more reasources to gain extracurricular activties on their transcript. Therefore, Sethre-Brink rallied for the opposition of this bill.
The Farabee Senate passed Senator Caleb Zhang’s bill to do away with automatic admission to universites. The Senate thought the bill proper to the issues that were revelent at the time. After over two hours of deliberation, the bill was passed.
The Second Bill
In a bill proposed by Senator Abel Macias, the senate debated a bill saying, “an act regulating the capacity the capacity of ammunition held in gun magazines and declaring an emergency.” Senator Macias gave numerous details supporting his claim, one of which was the Las Vegas massacre. Senators showed their passion for the bill and deliberation continued for well over an hour. The delegates attempted to ammend and change the bill but in the end, it did not pass.
The Debate on Gun Control-Bill was not passed
Throughout the debate, the senators deliberated on numerous aspects of the bill, as well as trying to make amendments. One of the most common issues that surfaced was the effectiveness of the bill. Senators debated whether limiting the magazine to only fifteen bullets would accomplish the decline in mass shootings. The senators eventually agreed to fail the bill.
The next bill discussed charges against people who accused others of false rape charges. Those who were accsued would end up facing the same charges of purgery. However, too many admendments were attempted and the punishment was raised. Therefore the bill failed.
The bill itself took well over an hour to be deliberated. All senators who raised their voice in either favor or disgust tried extremely hard for their way to come to fruition. The intent of the bill was good; however, it was not passed.
Overall in the Farabee senate, the senators showed great activity and energy while debating the bills. Throughout the trials, individuals competed hard and strong to show their opinion in all of the bills that were proposed. Numerous bills were proposed, and all delegates showed their standing in the matters present.
By Karxyriah Ashley
Hard-work, preparation, and dedication. At the 72nd Annual Youth and Government State
Conference held in Austin, 41 Judicial District Court Teams from schools all over Texas came together to compete for a chance to go to Nationals.
Throughout the day, the blood, sweat, and tears that each team put into preparing the court case was showcased during mock trials.
Although, by just watching the trial, the sheer difficulty of playing a witness, attorney, or bailiff, might go unnoticed, it has been a long and hard road for many teams to get to this point.
One team from Dripping Springs High School had months of morning practices and even did last minute practicing in the elevator to make sure they were even more prepared.
Even though, due to scheduling, they had to do a lot of individual and last minute practicing, “in the end we pulled it all together,” said delegate Gabriel Peeples from Dripping Springs.
“Based off the critiques from the trials we’ve been in I think we have a good chance of going [to Nationals],” said Peeples.
For Peeples, the hardest part about this year’s case was “clearing up with the attorneys a lot of different questions and how to answer if the opposing team asks unexpected questions.”
However, overall, “I enjoyed working on this case because there’s a lot of different angles and ways to approach it at for either team,” said Peeples.
Another hard-working team from Hays High School had began meeting in August to “go over the case, read through the affidavits, and come up with questions for defense and prosecution attorneys so we could help each other,” said Preston Jones.
“The hardest part Isn’t always going over the facts but thinking about what is the other team going to say or what someone else is going to think of that we have never met before,” said Nick Muller of Hays High School.
However, after all is said and done, “I personally enjoyed working on this case because it was a lot more challenging for the prosecution and that made it more interesting, said Jones.
Although every team can’t be in the top, no matter what happens ever team competed today knowing they performed to the best of their ability.
By Sarah Roy
After a full day of hard work students competing in the Youth and Government State Conference took a break from the nitty gritty to relax from the diligent nature of the day. With many activities throughout the hotel, delegates were given the opportunity to cut loose and mingle with fellow delegations.
Students attending the conference worked hard and remained focused on the tasks that they were assigned to throughout the day. It was understood that the work being done was highly comprehensive and not easy. Activities were set up for the students later that night, allowing them to get a well-deserved break after a long day. While these activities consisted of simple things, such as board games, and arts and crafts, it was still a great chance for everyone to let go and spend time with friends. From playing card games, like spoons, to getting comfortable and watching Jumanji, there was something for everyone to do. There was even karoke, in which some people got so into it that when the music was cut, they continued to belt lyrics from Hamilton. A good time like this was necessary as it provided students with a little fun over a weekend soley focused on their political involvement.
“It was nice to be able to just hang out. Everyone was being silly and it was a lot of fun,” a student said.
Not only were the events planned a good way to help students relax, but they also provided the districts with a good opportunity to interact with one another. With five different districts attending the conference, there was a very diverse group of students, all with diverse backgrounds. The opportunity to meet people with different interests and characteristics is a wonderful experience and the fact that they’re coming together for a weekend to share the things that they’re passionate about with equally as passionate people is remarkable.
“I didn’t really think that I would end up hanging out with people who weren’t in my delegation, but I ended up meeting a few people from other delegations that I wouldn’t mind keeping in touch with,” a student said.
The students attending the conference understand that what they’re doing is important work and an amazing experience to have. It’s even better though when they get the chance to lay back and have fun. With multiple opportunities for knowlede and political involvement along with the activities provided and new people to meet, it makes for a well-rounded weekend.