Despite their busy weekday schedules, which include enormous levels of homework and time-consuming extracurriculars, a passionate group of 115 high-school students from the local area attend meetings at the Oneonta Church each Thursday evening to participate in California YMCA Youth & Government.
The program, essentially a six-month civic development and youth leadership experience, allows high-schoolers to come together and learn about various governmental program areas. Over 3,000 teenagers from all over the state of California participate in three collective conferences, in which they debate pertinent issues, write bills, campaign for statewide positions, and express strong opinions through empowering speeches.
Just one meeting with the group of expressive high-schoolers that make up South Pasadena San Marino’s delegation is all that is needed to see the devotion they each have to the program. “Youth and government, and SPASM specifically, is this really special and fantastic program that fosters healthy debate and public speaking skills,” says Parliamentarian Junior Amelia Anthony. “Since I joined freshman year, I have been so much more aware of the world around me, and have learned about privilege, perspective, and social issues that I had never even considered before.”
Not only is Youth & Government an educational, hands-on opportunity for students to become interested and informed in the issues that are ever-present in America, it is an excellent place for building relationships and creating a sense of unity. “Y&G has been about having a community that I can turn to for support and love in the midst of a chaotic high school environment,” says delegation President Senior Charlotte Emerson. “I have met my best friends through this program and have become a more educated and well-spoken individual overall.”
Students met at their first conference in Fresno, California over Veteran’s Day Weekend. Throughout the three days, they were introduced to the wide array of program areas that are offered and took part in various elections for statewide positions. South Pasadena High School senior Taylor Holmes was elected 69th Chief Justice, having run against numerous delegates from across the state in a passionate and successful campaign. Along with Holmes, freshman Charlotte Farrar succeeded in her campaign, being announced as one of the final two for her position, Forum Speaker of the Assembly. She will continue into runoffs against Tate Oien of the San Diego delegation at the program’s next Training and Elections conference, set to take place on the weekend of January 14th in Fresno. Here, delegates will prepare diligently for their final conference, the 69th Model Legislature and Court, which will occur over President’s Day weekend in February. The four day conference will take place in California’s capital, Sacramento, where delegates will have the opportunity to debate and express their views in the actual courtrooms used by state justices as well as state Senate and Assembly chambers.