Sacramento, California– It was VIP Day at the final Youth and Government conference of the year last Friday, and the 113 members of the South Pasadena San Marino (SPASM) delegation comprised the largest in attendance.
The state capitol had been taken over the day before by student delegates from throughout California working to draft, debate and amend legislation before Monday’s signing deadline.
Organized into committees and assemblies, delegates, tucked into rooms and sprawled across hallway floors, were periodically pulled away from their projects to speak to YMCA Board Members, cameramen and reporters.
Snaking through the building, the entourage finally arrived at the Governor’s office. Currently occupied by Jerry Brown, on this day it hosted South Pasadena High School senior Cole Cahill, the 70th Youth Governor of California.
Cahill had spoken earlier that morning before an audience of 3,500 delegates, numerous advisors and members of the press while a projection of his photograph showed on two mega screens.
The lights were not too bright for the affable, articulate young man, who said he was “grateful to have the opportunity to deliver a message on behalf of all the California delegates.” The platform to speak on behalf of an assembly of youth equally passionate about democracy, eager to try their hands at governing was, after all, what Cahill sought when he campaigned for the prestigious position last fall. ”
Cahill’s ascension to youth governor was precipitated by stints as a committee chair and lieutenant governor. He was driven to pursue leadership roles after traveling to North Carolina as a sophomore to attend the annual Conference for National Affairs.
Campaigning for youth governor, Cahill said, was a trying experience: “Part of what I learned – going around twice a week to different delegations in Southern California and even making a trip up north to visit delegations there – was how draining and taxing selling yourself can be.”
His campaign began shortly after the conclusion of the 2016 US presidential election. On the trail, Cahill did not shy away from addressing the disconnect he believes still exists between the government and the country, instead attacking it head on.
“Every time I hear someone say, ‘never trust a politician,’ or, ‘government is corrupt,’ I hate to hear that,” Cahill said Tuesday, after the conclusion of the conference. “Democracy is beautiful. For all of us involved in Youth and Government who leave the program with a sense of empowerment about our ability to make change even as young people, I want to say that the way things are right now politically aren’t how they have to be or how we want them to be.”
Cahill, who plans to study public policy and political science in college, with, perhaps, a focus on urban studies, undertook a heavy load of responsibilities as youth governor. Among his tasks were organizing the different delegations, serving as a link between Youth and Government staff and student delegates, and signing the final draft of every bill passed this past Monday. (He said he signed between 40 and 50).
However, Cahill points to changes made to the organization’s youth division as his greatest accomplishment as governor.
Every year, a group of delegates campaigns to raise money for a statewide fund that provides aid to delegates struggling to meet the financial burden of participating in all aspects of Youth and Government. The cost per delegate is roughly $1,300.
In previous years, the division was limited to who could campaign. Under Cahill’s leadership, any and all delegates were allowed to campaign, raising $57,000 total this year.
Cahill was born outside Philadelphia. He moved to South Pasadena in the 6th grade and attended SPMS. At the high school, Cahill has thrived on the staff of Tiger Newspaper, where he now serves as print managing editor.
He would like to thank the entire SPASM delegation as well as the YMCA staff for their support throughout his time in the program and especially during his campaign. “I love being from South Pasadena and I love communicating our ideas to a statewide audience,” he said.