Youth in Government is a program created by the YMCA to get high school students involved in the democratic process in order to help them better understand how the government works and to prepare students to get involved in the government. It takes place annually in the Capital Building in Jefferson City.
“I still can’t believe they have full access to the building, including House chambers and Senate chambers,” said Principal Craig Hannick.
Youth in Government (YIG) began at SLUH two years ago, when Hannick decided to introduce it after his daughter ran for amd was elected governor of Missouri YIG with the platform of expanding it to other schools. He then recruited social studies teacher Bob O’Connell to help co-moderate. The program started out with only nine students who were involved only in the legislative branch.
The following year, YIG more than tripled at SLUH, going from nine students involved to 28. SLUH was also able to secure an elected position, with senior Cameron Spence being elected Secretary of State.
This year brought about many changes to YIG. With Hannick becoming principal for the year, a new moderator was needed. Sarah Becvar, SLUH’s new politics teacher, decided to fill that role because of her experience with YIG at her former school, Fort Zumwalt West.
“She brings her knowledge of politics to our group and also she has a lot of experience with the judicial branch,” said Hannick.
With Becvar’s help, SLUH has been able to expand into areas of YIG that were previously not dealt with.
“The last two years we’ve only been legislative,” said Hannick. “This year we have 12 kids in the judicial program and two kids in the media program.”
Becvar is confident that as YIG grows, senior leaders will be able to take control over responsibility of the club and run it without much moderator oversight.
“Eventually my role in getting us ready for the convention will be even smaller and it’ll really be about the senior leaders and setting the tone and doing all the training,” said Becvar. “One of my biggest goals is to make this as student-run as possible.”
This year’s senior leaders are Joe Boyce and Nathan Inserra. Both of them were involved last year and wanted to come back as leaders.
“I’m pretty passionate about politics and getting involved, so I was pretty excited when I got the opportunity last year,” said Boyce.
As members of the legislative branch, Boyce and Inserra have been working together on a bill that they will present over the weekend. The bill, known as the Student Debt Offset Act, will give tax breaks to people with college debt depending on the amount of debt that they have.
“I think it’s a really important issue that needs to be addressed in a bipartisan way,” said Boyce.
With the expansion that YIG has seen at SLUH, the moderators continue to be impressed at the students’ handling of important issues.
“SLUH students are really passionate about human dignity issues,” said Becvar. “Sometimes there are bills proposed at YIG that are questionable in terms of how they treat people, and SLUH students are really great at standing up and talking about why those bills are problematic.”
YIG’s expansion doesn’t seem to be slowing down, and it likely will continue to be a popular club that allows students to get involved in their government.
“It just naturally grows on itself because of how popular of a program it is,” said Boyce. “It truly markets itself.”