The Edmond Sun

February 1, 2013

YMCA offers local students opportunities in democracy

Memorial juniors take part in Youth in Government

Patty Miller
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Memorial juniors Brock Trotter, Andrew Valdez and Kristine Johnson are running for YMCA Youth in Government state offices during the state conference Feb. 7-9 in Oklahoma City.

The Y’s Youth in Government program is a national program that involves thousands of teens nationwide in state-organized, model-government programs. It provides students with the opportunity to immerse themselves in experiential civic engagement and practice democracy.

“Teens from every state meet in their local Youth in Government groups throughout the year to discuss and debate issues that affect citizens of their state and to propose legislation,” said Stillwater student Libby Wuller, the 62nd governor of Oklahoma’s Youth in Government, in an open letter.

High school students from around the state have the opportunity to author legislation and then debate it in the chambers of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

The Judicial Branch allows students to be witnesses, attorney and judges in the Court of Criminal Appeals at the state Capitol. Since the beginning of the program, more then 12,000 students have been involved with this leadership experience.

The program culminates with teens serving as delegates at their state conference and debating bills on the floor of the Legislature.

Brock has his sites set on Youth governor for Oklahoma, Andrew is running for lieutenant governor and Kristine is running for speaker of the House.


sponsors club

All three students are members of Memorial High School’s Youth in Government Club sponsored by Dr. Beth Evans, Government and Debate teacher, and Melinda Johnson, Family and Consumer Finance teacher.

“Youth in Government offers the single most hands-on opportunity for the students to see government in action,” Evans said. “We have a Judicial and Legislative branch and a News Media organization. Brock is the head of the club’s Lobbyist group and is responsible for any research.

“Our club is one of two organizations in the state where the student senators are able to sit in Oklahoma’s Senate chambers and the student legislators are able to sit in the House and our freshman students will be able to sit in the Freshman House,” she said.

Evans has been a club sponsor for eight years and participated as a club member when she attended high school in Georgia.

The organization has about 20 members, and Johnson said the students learn critical thinking skills, learn how to research, and in the Judicial part acting as attorneys they will learn how to debate cases.

Johnson has been an adviser for more than 20 years.

She said she has a former student who was governor of Youth in Government, and now as an alum he advises governor candidates.

“I have watched the students develop skills that help them grow as leaders,” Johnson said. “The students learn about policy making and many former members are practicing lawyers.”

Students eye

elected roles

Brock, whose sites are on the governor’s position, said being a member of Youth in Government has played a large role in his high school life, and he has attended the nationals conference since he was a freshman.

Brock started Oklahoma’s Youth in Government lobbyist branch when he was a sophomore and said, “The club is about communication and friendship.”

Brock said after he has achieved his goals in his vocation he would like to be in politics.

Andrew said he has always been interested in government and being chosen lieutenant governor will give him a chance to see how things work first hand.

“I would like to be able to influence policy making later in life,” Andrew said.

He said he aspires to go into the medical field and be like Ron Paul who is in the medical field and also a politician.

Andrew has also been in the organization since he was a freshman, and his qualifications include being chosen as a delegate to represent Oklahoma at the Conference on National Affairs (Youth in Government Nationals), was the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership School Representative, is a member and officer of the National Honor Society, a member of Youth Leadership OKC and Youth Leadership Edmond, and he is a member of Memorial’s Speech and Debate team.

Kristine said she would like to be in politics one day and running for Speaker of the House will give her experience in seeing firsthand how government is run.

“Youth in Government has taught me so many things,” she said, “and I want to give back to my community.”

Kristine said she has been taught that the way to achieve great things is to do bold things.

“I want to do both,” she said.

Groups active at all local schools

In addition to Memorial, Edmond North, Edmond Santa Fe and Deer Creek all have Youth in Government Clubs. This is the 62nd year of Oklahoma YMCA Youth in Government.

North High School has two students who are currently state officers Charles Anderson III, Senate Journal Clerk; and Atif Ali, House Sgt. of Arms. Two students are in the Governor’s Cabinet Emily Weiher and Zac Zaloudek.

“Youth in Government is a truly unique program where you can express yourself through debate and speech, trials, acting, print media, and much more,” Wuller, the current president, said on the organization’s website. “Our goal is to provide you with an in-depth view of our state government, a platform to share and discuss your beliefs and opinions, an environment where you can develop new friendships and ideas, an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and develop lasting leadership skills, and a program that is created just for you.

“Youth in Government has taught me to think for myself, to formulate my own opinions and ideas, to never be afraid to stand up for what I believe.”