By: Kyle Gehman

The 2017 Youth and Government State Conference kicked off today for the 70th year in a row. Despite all of the differences throughout the past seven decades, the ideas and importance behind YG have stayed the same. To empower young adults to unite in learning and practicing democracy and to learn about their voice in this world through public speaking and explaining their opinions.

“Our keynote speaker today at our VIP event was Evan Smith, the CEO of the Texas Tribune, and he pointed to our youth officers in saying you are charged with leading this society and community and civic engagement because we are not going to be leading it, so who is going to pick up the baton,” state director Angela Castilleja said.

During the Opening Session, speakers all voiced their opinion on how empowering and important the YG program is.

“I think

[YG] gives students a platform to identify their voice and gain confidence,” Castilleja said. “Public speaking is the number one fear for people so it is a huge benefit to be able to speak in public in a work environment and I think students need to be informed. You are our future.”

The conference came less than 100 days after one of the biggest moments for the United States government, Election Day. Now, delegates have the chance to show how they feel our government should be run after witnessing a terse election season.

“I honestly think that a lot of people are on edge and that people are being driven farther and farther apart because of the election,” Jared Bouloy said. “I feel like it’s going to make this weekend very very interesting with a lot of people’s emotions running high. It will be interesting to see how everybody is reacting to different political things and creating sides on different bill topics that are controversial.”

Texas Youth Governor Kennedi Montgomery has high hopes for this year’s conference and hopes everyone can learn about more than just democracy.

“Not only does Youth and Government help you with government but it brings people out of their cages and really showcases their talent,” Montgomery said. “It doesn’t just enhance your intelligence but it also makes you a better person. I hope everyone enjoys themselves and they have a phenomenal time this weekend.”