Cecil walks into the library at Pittsburgh Obama, where he is greeted by many other high school students. They are meeting to discuss certain matters pertaining to the state’s government, which they are quite involved with. These intelligent teenagers are members of the YMCA’s Youth and Government Program in Pennsylvania. According to the YMCA, the program is designed to “empower youth to become engaged citizens, critical thinkers, and ethical leaders in the community.”
Cecil is a returning member of the Youth and Government Club, more commonly known around school as YAG. Last year, he was a Committee Chairman and Senator in the Gold Senate. He was also chosen to be a representative for the state at the YMCA’S 2017 Youth CONA event (Conference on National Affairs). He has a lot of experience and passion for the program, so I decided to ask him some questions about it.
Aubree Peterson-Spanard: So, what exactly is the Youth and Government Club?
Cecil Price III: The Youth and Government Club is a club that teaches students the way the government is operated, or should be operated. It is taught through three branches, which are Legislative, Judicial, and Press.
APS: What do you and other members do in the club?
CP: I am personally in the Legislative Branch. The Legislative Branch is where laws are made. We write our own personal bills, hoping that they are put into law. Other members are in the Judicial Branch, where they write briefs on real life court cases. They later have debates on the cases, with other student attorneys. Also, in Press, it is basically the media of The Youth and Government Club. The students take pictures of what happens in the club, and records what goes on during Elections Convention, Pre-Legislative, and Model.
APS: And when/where do Elections Convention, Pre-Leg, and Model take place?
CP: So, Elections Convention takes place on a Saturday in the month of November and Pre-Leg is also on a Saturday, but in February. All of the schools that are a part of Youth and Government in Pennsylvania meet up in a school that is also in the PA area. Model is in April and takes place in Harrisburg, at the Pennsylvania State Capitol.
APS: You get to work in the Congress chambers in Harrisburg, right?
CP: Yes, the students get to work in the House and Senate Chambers. The club is student oriented, so that means we have total control over the Capitol. Even though we have control, we are still supervised by adults.
APS: That makes sense. So, what’s it like to work in the same rooms as some of our state officials?
CP: It’s amazing! I was able to sit in the same seat as a senator of Pennsylvania. It was a great feeling; I felt like a real Senator.
APS: It sounds wonderful. It’s quite obvious that this club means a lot to you. Besides that amazing feeling, why is YAG so important and interesting to you?
CP: One of the reasons why Youth and Government is an important club to me is because the Barack Obama Academy of International Studies is the only inner city school in the club. That just makes me want to represent my school even more. Also, it is interesting to me because I love that there is a club that actually teaches young people what goes on in our government. If we learn early on in life how much government affects us as a whole, then we will be prepared for what this country has to offer.
APS: Wow, that’s such a great outlook on it! I hear that the club’s new officers are planning on making some new changes this year. What are these changes, and why are they occurring?
CP: One of the biggest changes in the club is that it’s going to be run mostly by the sophomore class. The reason for this is because the club was made up of a lot of seniors in the past year, and now they have graduated. Even though the club will be led by mostly sophomores, we have enough experience to help better the club.
APS: Last question (technically two): What would you tell students who are interested in joining, and/or what advice would you give to new members?
CP: To new members who want to join, it is an amazing club to participate in. It teaches you things that are not taught in other schools. It’s a great opportunity and something that would look good on your college applications. The advice I want to give future members, make sure you are dedicated. There are a lot of things that have to happen, to make sure that everyone is ready and prepared for Elections Convention, Pre-Leg, and Model. As the saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” What I’m trying to say is that, we will help lead the members in the right direction, but they will have to help push themselves as well.
I hope this information gives people a better understanding of our Youth and Government Club here at Pittsburgh Obama. As a member of YAG, I encourage those of you who are interested in joining to please sign up. I won’t sugar coat it; club members have to work hard and are held to certain expectations. But just because something isn’t easy doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy it. These kids are the future; the next generation of leaders and citizens who will all be tasked with making our state, and country, a better place. People like Cecil and the rest of the club are ready to accept these responsibilities and face life’s challenges head on. Are you?