In a time when our politics seem to be more polarized than ever, I would have to say that one of our most unique and, perhaps, least known programs is as timely and important as ever.
Once again this year, the Y Youth & Government (Y&G) program recently culminated in a mock legislative session held in the State House in Annapolis, producing a wide range of bills and even more budding leaders. With the help of a team of Y volunteers and associates, 147 Y&G delegates from nine high schools across the state met with coaches at a Y or their school for several months to prepare for their legislative session. Whether acting as an elected member of the legislature or executive branch, a member of the press corps, a lawyer, a judge or lobbyist, these future leaders energetically participated in the democratic process, developing, debating and voting upon their own proposed legislation and engaging first hand in the messy, exciting and inspiring principles that make up our democracy.
A look at the names of bills passed gives a glimpse into the wide range of important issues that are on the minds of these highly engaged young people:
- Changing Standard Materials Used for Qualifying Bridges
- Fair Brewing Bill
- Adding primary election holidays
- Lowering the gambling age to 18
- Domestic Violence Reform
- Veterans patrolling public schools
- Standardizing Underage Drinking Enforcement
- Solitary Confinement
- Protect wait-listed people for the U (victims of crimes) and S (informants and witnesses) visas
- Pharmaceutical Price Gouging Limitations
- Banning ride-share companies from hiring sex offenders
- Restricting animal testing
- Free Campus Act
Alexandra Hughes, Chief of Staff for Speaker of the House Michael E. Busch, was the keynote speaker for the closing banquet on Sunday, April 22nd. She spoke passionately about the absolute importance of working across the aisle to get things done, stressing empathy for the other person’s point of view, an especially important sentiment in the unusually fractious times we are living in. We are grateful to Alexandra and also to the 33 volunteers and eight Y associates who dedicated themselves to creating a great experience for the delegates. They took time out of their work days and weekends to ensure that everyone had a great and enriching experience. We couldn’t have pulled it off without their trust, flexibility and dedication to help students research materials, write bills, prepare for court cases, and write speeches.
We are equally as grateful to our many partners, including lead funder BGE, along with The Y Youth Fund of the Central Atlantic Area, The Patrick J. Citroni Liberty Foundation, The Lee and Sue Jensen Legacy Fund and Delegate Ben Kramer, whose generous grants and donations funded the participation of 28 students who otherwise would not have been able to participate. JC Penney (also a generous Send a Kid to Camp partner) made it possible for members of the Baltimore City Delegation to “dress for success” at their store in White Marsh. Each student was able to get an outfit (or three if they were thrifty shoppers!) that helped them feel confident and proud as they went about their business in Annapolis. Their new outfits will also serve them well for interviews, jobs, graduation and more.
Finally, I want to thank our Maryland Y Youth & Government State Director Grace Chaisson and her entire team. They not only made us proud, they afforded memories that will last a lifetime for so many!
All the best,
John K. Hoey
President & CEO
The Y in Central Maryland