By Gabi Jensen
The gavel: used to call attention and silence audiences. It’s history goes all the way back to 1798 when Vice President John Adams used one to call the very first U.S. Senate to order. Openings, closings, and final verdicts, the gavel holds it all within its carefully whittled handle. Some may say it’s the core of the court.
After a long evening and getting settled into the Renaissance Hotel, students woke up bright and early, while the sun was still hidden beneath the trees to prepare for the day’s events. Locations and times all varied but the value of the day was beyond imaginable. There were people on their first and on their last Texas YMCA Youth and Government State experiences. Some were trying new sections, while others were attempting to achieve mastery. All branches of legislative made their way to the Capital building today, as well as other sections, to present their work. The bills ranged from animal euthanasia to murder charge durations. The possibilities at this club are endless and the experience you take away is unimaginable.
Following the election of Donald Trump in 2016, immigration laws have been a heavily debated topic. Christine Wu, 12th grader from Greenhill School Town North YMCA, presented her bill focusing on the topic to hearing committees on January 25th. In her words, her bill is in essence, “repealing a real Texas senate bill (SB 4); SB 4 made sanctuary cities illegal, my bill repeals that bill.” She hopes that by repealing this bill it will protect wrongful or unprompted invasions of privacy and safety of people who have the appearance of an immigrant. She hopes to give states and cities the power to decide whether or not they wish to become a sanctuary city themselves.
“I care about immigration, I spent 7 weeks over summer studying it, and sanctuary cities are the only current way for States to impact immigration policy,” said Wu. This bill in itself is testimony to how youth and government is giving teens more of a voice. It illuminates government and shows that this generation does have interests in the betterment of the state and nation; they just need a platform to express it.
Working for a Future.
Delegates watch as Griffen Smith, 12th grader from the Dripping Springs delegation, presents a bill he created to enact a vocational labor service within prisons. Smith explains that “this will create jobs with corporations,” and he got the idea by looking around at other states and thinking “why not Texas too.” When considering this bill it was presented with many pros and cons however it’s intent remains the same: to be able to rehabilitate prisoners back into life. Thinking ahead is what we need and what Youth and Government (YAG) creates. It creates diversity and acceptance and a goal to create something better than before and leave it better than we found it. “Even though I wouldn’t personally be impacted, that does not make it any less important to me,” said Smith.
In Session.I had the privilege to be allowed to sit in and whiteness the YAG Senate. It proceeds same as the actual senate would (with allotments and amendments for time shortages) and the process is nearly identical. Bills are presented and debated and changed and re-hashed over and over for possibly hours. It’s a long process but the reality of it is productive. I watched someone propose and pass a bill, which takes it higher and higher up the rank. All there is, is possibilities. You step in and you become apart of the government, not a fake government, but one where you truly could make an impact.
One Family to Another.
Arjun Dodanari, 12th grader from Imagine International Academy of North Texas McKinney YMCA, proposed a bill limiting outsourcing of large and small scale corporations. He used a personal antedote about how his family has experienced outsourcing to India which related greatly to my personal experiences with the same company that he had mentioned. “As an Indian American, there’s a lot of polarization within my family, a lot of jobs my aunt and uncle have are outsourced from America” said Dodanari. This hit home in multiple ways for him, however his bill was in fact an effort to limit outsourcing by creating more security and time for families who are working for companies who wish to lay off people and outsource. His bill proposes a 1 year notice before being laid off and provisions to prevent unreasonable firing.
Words with Impact.
“All political power is inherent in the people and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their benefit” – First Constitution State of Texas, 1845.
The power of the government comes from the people, by the people, for the people. This quote expresses the balance that’s maintained by the government. We have the power, we need to use it, and Youth and Government shows the use of our power.
Dedication Makes the Experience Sweeter.
“I have worked so hard to be here. It’s my first year in Youth and Government and everything has been new to me. I was so excited to present my bill even though I was super nervous at District. The long nights practicing in my room making my bill perfect seems worth it now.” said Sarah Giaonnatti when asked about her experience with Youth and Government
Working for Others.
Dylan Cousins, 12th grader form Jack C. Hays High School, wrote a bill that was passed by committee for “free public college for those whose families make under $125,000, which would not personally impact me however I believe could be crucial to students who are limited by the amount of money they have access to.” He got the idea from Rice and New York, and the bill is on the docket for senate.
The Program.Day one was a long day and these pictures tell a story of long hard nights that lead up to a beautiful day where people got a chance to express their beliefs and ideals for the future of our state. Texas Youth and Government is a program focused towards the betterment of teens and the future.