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.