Unhappy With Your Current Club? Consider Youth and Government.


Pictured: Kyra Baillie (left), Zoe Fuller (center), Kingston Cox (right)

Sam Bisno, Editor-in-Chief

Somehow, break is nearly over, and our return to school will mark the closing of the third quarter – the beginning of the home stretch. To some, this is synonymous with stress, be it from finals, I.B. exams, or just general end-of-the-year craze. But for others, this period is a welcome one, as it signifies the opportunity for change, for escape, even. You see, amidst the frantic nature of the Spring months, it becomes easy to overlook a key aspect of Obama Academy’s culture: its clubs. Indeed, as Summer draws nearer, and crunch time grows crunchier, it seems as if many clubs begin to take a back seat to matters deemed more pressing, and Tuesday QRTs more often than not become mere placeholders – imposed study halls or, perhaps preferably, 40 minutes of good, old-fashioned goofing off. At varying rates, ranging from slow deceleration to sudden halt, seemingly every club winds down for the year. That is, every club except Youth and Government. (Note: this is a gross generalization rendered solely for the purpose of the introduction to this article, and is not meant to offend members of any clubs still maintaining a high degree of productivity).

Yes, if you find yourself feeling that the aforementioned concerns aren’t quite anxiety-inducing enough for your needs, then consider signing up for YAG next fall – which, as mentioned previously, is not that far away. Currently, YAG members are frantically attempting to prepare for the annual model legislature in Harrisburg, which looms on the April horizon. But what exactly do YAG kids do, anyways? And is there really any benefit to joining? There’s no way it can really be all it’s cracked up to be, right?

Well, dear reader, I’m glad you asked, because it just so happens that I recently sat down with junior and Club President Kyra Baillie to hear her thoughts on why Youth and Government is so great. If you’re considering enlisting next year, either because you’re genuinely enthusiastic about the workings of government, or because you’re simply looking to retreat from your current milieu, I advise that you read on before making your decision.

Sam Bisno: For those who don’t know, can you sum up Youth and Government in a few sentences?
Kyra Baillie: YAG is basically a mock government. Our club, as well as many clubs from across the state of Pennsylvania (there are about 700 total YAG members statewide), go to the capital for four days in April to assume the roles of state senators, representatives, lobbyists, lawyers, supreme court judges, cabinet members, press writers, photographers, etcetera. It is a really intense but awesome experience, and you learn a lot!

SB: Why did you join Youth and Government?
KB: I joined YAG because I’ve always liked politics and speaking. My older brother and his friends did YAG and loved it, and some upperclassmen recruited me and convinced me to join. It seemed essential to getting the most out of Obama and my high school experience.

SB: Why did you want to become Club President?
KB: I like to be leader and I like to be in charge, honestly. This club did a lot for me during my freshman and sophomore years, and I wanted to give some of that back and try to give the awesome experience that I had with YAG to as many others as I could.

SB: What does the average club day look like?
KB: It depends on the time of year. We could be doing anything from speaking exercises to writing bills and briefs.

SB: What is your main goal for the club moving forward?
KB: To grow, both in size and in strength. I want a big club as much as any club president would, but I think it is equally important, if not more, to have a club full members who are committed and well-prepared.

SB: Why is Youth and Government important?
KB: In today’s political climate, everything is controversial. Everything is a partisan issue, and it is difficult to have political discussions without them turning into conflicts. YAG teaches us how to use our voices as much as it teaches us how to listen. It connects kids from all types of backgrounds and allows them to discuss issues that are important to them without being interrupted or dismissed. It teaches us to bond over things that aren’t politically related, to make friends, and to get along with people who seem fundamentally different from ourselves.

SB: What is the most significant thing you have learned from being a member of Obama Youth and Government?
KB:  I’ve grown up in a kind of a liberal bubble. I went to CAPA for middle school before I came to Obama for high school, and I’ve always lived in Pittsburgh. Going to the capital and discussing politics with kids who come from almost entirely rural and suburban areas – until this year, Obama was the only inner-city delegation – is a completely unique experience. It has certainly taught me that my voice is unique and has an important place in politics. It’s also taught me to understand political views that I would normally be entirely disdainful of. It allows us to break out of the liberal bubble that this city is and understand how and why conservative politics are so prevalent in the government right now, even if we don’t agree with them.

SB: How has Youth and Government impacted your high school career?
KB: YAG has definitely helped me find my voice and learn to speak up about things that are important to me. It has taught me to be more productive, too. It also opens up lots of opportunities.

SB: Do you feel that Youth and Government will impact your life outside of high school at all?
KB: Yes, definitely. I had never really considered a career in politics before I was in YAG, and that’s something I’m thinking about pretty seriously now. Even if I don’t pursue politics, YAG has taught me the value of networking and given me some practice with it, so I will likely use that in any career path.

SB: What makes Youth and Government different from other clubs?
KB: I don’t think any other clubs go on field trips, so there’s that. Also, I feel like some clubs are just kind of free periods that don’t really do anything serious with their time. In YAG, we are always doing something. Joining YAG allows you to make something worthwhile of the required club period at school.

SB: What would you say to kids on the fence about joining?
KB: There’s something for everyone in YAG, whether you like taking pictures, writing, debating, speaking, or are particularly passionate about a certain issue. If you have an interest in being a lawyer or politics than YAG is absolutely the place for you. Like I said earlier, YAG opens up so many opportunities if you make the most of it. It is also excellent in terms of college applications, so that’s definitely something to consider. YAG is also a lot of fun, and I really enjoy being around the other kids who do it, both at Obama and across the state. I think it kind of brings people together, honestly, so if you’re looking for a way to make more friends, it’s definitely a good option. Give it a try, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in high school.

I can attest firsthand to the notion that Youth and Government is truly an outstanding club, and one that has affected me in far more ways than I could have ever imagined. If you find yourself unhappy with your current Tuesday QRT situation, consider joining YAG next year. It’s never too late to start!