A week ago, 53 students of all ages attended the 2017 Pennsylvania Youth and Government Model Convention. While normal school went on back in Pittsburgh, these students sat amidst the grandeur of the Harrisburg capitol building, debating bills on topics from the death penalty to legalizing porn, and arguing about the legality of a sex offender registry. Between hours-long sessions, they dropped by the cheap Chinese restaurant across the street, and the pizza place around the corner before returning back to work. On average, each student may have gotten five hours of sleep each night. But while this may sound like torture, club members came back excited and enthusiastic for the future, laden with numerous prizes and successes.
Youth and Government is divided into three branches: the legislative, the judicial, and the press. The majority of Obama’s members are in the legislative branch, which is in turn divided into four chambers: the Gold House, the Gold Senate, the Blue House, and the Blue Senate. The Blue chambers are for more experienced members. Delegates cooperate to pass bills in both chambers for both the Gold and the Blue. In addition, several of Obama’s members are a part of the judicial branch, including two who are justices, as well as some people in the press corps.
The point of the legislative side of the Model convention is to pass bills, imitating how a real legislature is supposed to work. However, only twenty-some bills are passed each year out of more than 400 submitted. Luckily, three of the club’s bills were included in that number. In the Gold chambers, Jonathan Freeman and Caleb Nesbit passed the Fair Minimum Wage Act and Michael Eddy Harvey and Sam Bisno passed the Care For Kids Act. Daevan Mangalmurti and Mikaela DeCarlo passed the Increase in Refugee Intake Act in the Blue chambers. Besides the bills that were passed, freshman Caleb Nesbit received recognition for the writing of his bill in the Gold House.
After Model, the YMCA organizes two national events for exemplary delegates, the Conference on National Affairs (CONA) and the National Judicial Competition (NJC). Each year Pennsylvania sends 25 people to CONA, with 25 alternates kept in reserve to take a person’s place if they cannot make it. Freshman Jon Freeman was chosen as an alternate, as well as seniors Louis Schoen III and Ben King, while freshman Cecil Price III and senior Lainey Newman were both selected to attend the conference. In the judicial branch, sophomores Zoe Fuller and Ekaterina Papazekos were selected as alternates for the NJC, and junior Maddie Silvestri was picked to attend.
This year’s Model was a worthwhile one for the club, and the younger members look poised to bring back more successes next year.