The Youth and Government club allows students to learn about the different branches of government through simulation activities. There are different sections in which students can participate, including trial court, appellate court, legislative, state affairs, and various types of political media. The club meets on Wednesday mornings, while two separate judicial groups have a meeting on Monday afternoons and Thursday mornings.
The club is focused on preparations for district competition on Nov. 10 and fundraising for state competition at the end of January. Legislative participants like president Addie Mae Villas are writing mock legislation in preparation for their section. Villas is also running for Youth Governor of Texas Youth and Government. After state competition, the focus will shift toward community service projects.
“To go to district, even if you don’t make it to state, it’s really good real life experience,” second year witness sophomore Mckayla Mellen said. “[You get to] compete with other people and do it professionally.”
There are two different courts in state in which members can qualify – the high court and a lower court. Once qualified for the higher court, participants have a chance of going to nationals. Additional benefits from participation include a letterman jacket after two years and a graduation cord honoring involvement with the organization.
Youth and government has been around for 70 years in the state of Texas through the YMCA. The organization would promote activities on their web site when several students seven years ago discovered the opportunities and just participated in Youth and Government on their own.
“I’ve been doing it for four or five years now, and originally there was an English teacher who was with me, but she moved away,” Jerri Ybarra, sponsor and social studies teacher, said. “So, for a while, I had to go it alone, until I brought in Mr. Bixby.”
Ever since Ybarra has been a part of the program, they’ve had at least one person go to state each year, even though they use to just have a handful of students participating. They have since expanded and had a year where they reached 16 students and qualified all of them three years ago.
“I’ve never done this before, so I don’t have much experience, but I know the attorneys are preparing questions and preparing the witnesses,” first year witness sophomore Ella Johnson said. “They come up to us and say, ‘Here is what you’re supposed to be doing, here’s what you might want to be doing in response to this, here’s what you definitely don’t want to say, here’s how you want to be acting,’ and stuff like that.”
There are multiple aspects to Youth and Government and a variety of preparations under way for district. There are witnesses and attorneys in a trial court, and they all have their roles to play, but new roles in the club further exemplify the growth in the program.
“We have two broadcast media competitors and, for the first time, this year, we have a photojournalist,” Ybarra said.
Several students are also competing as judges. The numerous opportunities show students the paths in government that might not be as obvious.
“It’s pretty interesting,” Johnson said. “I like it because it’s a new perspective on things.”
Written by Mckenzie Mellen