YMCA N.C. Youth and Government holds annual conference

John Yildiz, News Editor

The YMCA N.C. Youth and Government Conference took place Feb 12-15 at the Raleigh Convention Center. This conference is an event where students are able to propose, debate and argue legislature alongside 1400 like-minded students.

Youth and Government is a national YMCA program that prepares students for moral and political leadership through the practice of developing public policy. Every student belongs to a delegation, or the group of Youth and Government that is present at his or her school. To prepare for conference, students have delegation meetings in which the students brainstorm and create the bill they would like to bring to debate at conference. The Athens Drive delegation meets every Thursday during both lunches.

“My favorite part of conference was debating the bills and being able to hear different opinions on various controversial issues and voice my own in a formal manner,” said Hannah York, senior.

During conference, every delegation brings one or more bills to debate on several occasions. Bills can be debated a minimum of two times and a maximum of four, depending on how well the bill fares throughout debate. Bills have to go through committees and chambers to reach the governor’s cabin, where it is then decided to be officially passed or failed. Committees are the first place in which bills are debated in conference and because of this, bills cannot actually be shot down at this stage, but will instead pass either favorably or unfavorably. This is a new addition to this year’s conference; in the past, bills were able to fail in committees.

Chambers are where bills are debated for the second and possibly third times. Chambers are separated into the House of Representatives and the Senate, and the bills are divided up accordingly. In chambers, bills are either passed or failed and when a bill is passed, it is sent to the other legislative body to be debated once more. If a bill passes in both places, then it is sent to the governor’s cabin for a final verdict.

“I think the Youth and Government program is important because it is giving teens a real experience rather than textbooks. I learn by doing, as so many people do, so it is neat to see the kids really getting into the process. If you are interested in being a political or a lawyer this is an incredibly helpful program. Even if you are not going in to law or politics it is still a program that boosts your self-esteem and public speaking skills. I always say you get what you put in to the conference. If you give the conference 100% effort you will leave a stronger leader,” said Katherine Vance, the Youth and Government advisor for the Athens Drive delegation.

The delegation from Athens Drive presented two bills to be debated. The first bill was the creation of a “fight club” in schools, and the second bill was putting an age restriction on soft drinks, such as soda. Both bills failed in chambers after heavy debate.