This Veterans Day, 28 Obama students sprung out of bed early in the morning to participate in the very things veterans are so often called upon to defend: liberty, freedom, and the democratic process. Despite a shaky start in the frigid morning air, Obama Youth and Government (YAG) members managed to get to Somerset High School only a few minutes behind schedule, eager to face the long day ahead. They were greeted by over a hundred other students from across Western PA, all gathered for one reason: Elections Convention, the annual event where YAG participants are elected to statewide positions for the coming year. The day-long convention begins with a candidates fair in the cafeteria, followed by a session announcing the official start of the convention and speeches by members running for major positions. After that, most attendees spend the day sitting in classrooms as candidates for make the rounds, pitching themselves through speeches and questions. For those fighting over votes, it is often a nerve-racking experience. For the rest of the delegates, it’s a far more relaxed – though at times slightly tedious – atmosphere, filled with laughter, a sense of camaraderie, and way, way too much candy (distributed as a form of bribery).
As the day wore on, there was a distinct change in the tone of questions. What started as “How will you ensure that your committee members feel comfortable using parliamentary procedure?” soon became “Why are manhole covers round?” and “Do you believe that bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a good or bad decision?”. By noon, seemingly everyone was fatigued, but lunch followed by a return to delegation rooms to decide how to vote was a chance to rejuvenate and reload for the rest of the day. Obama displayed its typical tight-knit nature and loyalty in its ballot-casting, standing by its members in each election. Although a smaller delegation than last year, the club was still running 11 candidates for various positions. As such, the announcement of votes and the final decisions on who would hold statewide offices in the coming year was a particularly fraught moment for the club. In the races for Justice, both Zoe Fuller and Ekaterini Papazekos won seats. Sam Bisno was able to edge in a position as Blue Committee Chair despite a plethora of candidates from other delegations. Zaire Giles, Justin Hartberg, and Caleb Nesbit also managed wins in the Gold Committee Chair races. Unfortunately, Cecil Price III couldn’t quite pull it out in the nail-biting race for Gold Speaker of the House, yielding to Jake Geil of Rose E. Schneider YMCA by the razor-thin margin of five votes in a runoff. Despite the losses of some candidates, club president Kyra Baillie had this to say about the day: “I am very proud of what our delegation accomplished both on paper and off of it.”
The Eastern Elections Convention will take place on the 18th. Winners of both conventions will then come together to take on the roles they were elected to at Model in Harrisburg in April.