Closing Ceremonies YIG 2021 3/28/21

by Ben Carroll, Charter School of Wilmington Delegation

After a long weekend of debating, bill-signing, and article-writing, the Youth in Government Model Legislative and Judicial Conference ended as it had begun: with a ceremony. Ms. Anesha Truesdale began with a welcome and a final introduction of this year’s leadership team, who announced awards within their branches.

Advisor Kat Caudle then spoke about how all the members will move on to do great things in their communities and in the world, and how much of success can be attributed to the work of delegates themselves and tireless efforts from advisors and alumni.

Following the awards were the announcements of the 2021-2022 leadership team. The next Chief Lobbyist will be Mythili Satheesh, the Editor in Chief will be Jiya Patel, the Youth Chief Justice will be Claire Andreasen, and the Youth Governor will be Kemper Cole.

Ms. Stephanie Messinger then announced the delegates selected to attend the National Judicial Conference (NJC) and Mr. Toph Patterson announced the delegates selected to attend the YMCA Conference on National Affairs (CONA).

With that, the meeting was adjourned with a motion. DEYIG has continued doing what it do best: creating and talking about innovative bills, debating the constitutionality of different legal cases, and writing articles regardless of our conference format. Good luck to the new leaders in preparation for next year, and well done to all of our 2021 YIG delegates.

Awards:

Outstanding Delegate Awards:

-Lobbyist: Jaida Mosely

-Legislative Priorities (lobbyist): Katie Gatelin

-Press: Ben Carroll

-Attorney (judicial): Michaela Somers

-Judge (judicial): Iveena Mukherjee

-Brief of the Petitioner (judicial): Anh-Linh McKaskill and Iveena Mukherjee

-Brief of the Respondent (judicial): Mia Xie and Alina Li

-McKean Representative (legislative): Gianna Voges

-Rodney Representative (legislative): Roma Sarathi

-Senator (legislative): Georgia Angeletakis

-Legislation: Justin Terranova, Jillian Cain, Parker Cole, Pauline Zhuang, Defne Elbeyli, Georgia Angeletakis, and Nidhi Patel.

-Outstanding Overall Delegate: Sophia Douglas, Aristomenes Angeletakis, Iveena Mukherjee, and Suhani Mehta.

Judicial showcase winners: Michaela Somers & Erica Hong (respondents)

Highest-scoring attorney: Michaela Somers

Highest-scoring justice: Maya Moldra

Bill-passed delegates:

-Arjan Kahlon, Krish Matta, Parker Cole, Rebecca King, Samantha Oliver, Roma Sarathi, Suveer Ganta, Jillian Cain, Donovan Dossous, Ann Casarino & Emma DeGarbolewski, Katie Ford, Me’Aira Nuni, Nidhi Patel, Georgia Angeletakis, Emma Jefferson, Jade Buan, Kirti Daga, Defne Elbeyli, Emily Gracie, Shaana Singh, and Matthew Haimowitz.

James C. Hardcastle Memorial Scholarship Award: Kemper Cole

Character and Development awards: Kemper Cole, Roma Sarathi, Nathan Cho, Claire Andreasen, and Sara Brick.

NJC:

-Michaela Somers, Claire Andreasen, Sara Brick, Erica Hong, Autumn Shahan, Alicia Chu, Rebekah Cheong, and Iveena Mukherjee.

-Alternates: Emily Chimel, Lucia Gotera, Suhani Mehta, Meghan Virani, Saankya Suresh, and Arielle Flaherty.

CONA:

-Rebecca King, Nathan Cho, Sophia Douglas, Ricky Kiamilev, Gianna Voges, Emma DeGarbolewski, Kehbuma Nukuna, Matthew Haimowitz, Amrutha Veeramachineni, Jaida Mosely, Kemper Cole, Georgia Angeletakis, and Samantha Oliver.

-Alternates: Nidhi Patel, Yussra Salim, Suveer Ganta, Adithi Jonnagadla, Louise Poppiti, Donovan Dossous, Kanmani Duraikkanan, Yuvashki Khanna, Roma Sarathi, Kyle Wilson, Meagan Ursillo, Jillian Cain, Parker Cole, Emma Jefferson, Avery Young, and Aristomenes Angeletakis.

Our 2021 Youth Governor, Amrutha Veeramachineni

by Ryan Balu, Charter School of Wilmington Delegation

Our 2020-2021 Youth Governor Amrutha Veeramechineni has worked tirelessly with the other YIG leadership in the last few months to make this program, despite being virtual, an amazing experience for our 100+ delegates. Governor Veeramechineni first joined YIG in 2017 after she and her friends spontaneously decided to join the program. She had never expected the connection she would make with the organization. Amrutha states that she “saw so many passionate individuals, and … it was very refreshing to see individuals who were focused on actually advocating for changes that are necessary in order to benefit our nation.” 

In her 4 years, Amrutha describes her experience as delightful. She was given the opportunity to hold so many different leadership positions and grow not only as a leader but also as a person. Her highlights are the insightful debate she has had throughout her YIG conferences as well as her time at the Youth Conference on National Affairs. She loved meeting new delegates and connecting with people from all across the state.

To those just starting their Youth in Government journey, Amrutha advises to “stay determined and keep raising your hand (or placard if we were in person).” Amrutha suggests that all legislative delegates should go over bills prior to conference and write pro/con speeches in preparation for debate. Youth in Government is a great place to learn more about the world around you and learn to speak out for the change you believe in. Make sure you take advantage of this opportunity and make the most of the 4 years you have in the program! As for the next Youth Governor, Amrutha emphasizes they should “just try your best,” and to those who did not get leadership positions this year, they should remember that YIG will still be a great experience with plenty of opportunities to lead your fellow delegates in the future. Here’s to the end of an amazing 2021 Youth in Government Conference and the start of an even better one next year!

Speaker of the House: Sam Oliver’s Road to the Rodney House

By Kaza Dayton, Sussex Delegation

As only a second year delegate, Sam Oliver never expected to be elected into such an esteemed leadership position. However, as the go-getter that she is, she decided to run for Speaker of the House anyway due to her passion for YIG. 

As a member of the Sussex Delegation, Oliver has been passionately arguing her bill topics for two years in addition to greatly contributing to delegation debates. Oliver has argued a wide range of topics from the effect of pollutant balloons on wildlife to the integration of suicide prevention curriculum in schools. During the 2021 conference, Oliver spoke eloquently and led delegates through meaningful debates. 

When asked what piece of advice she would share with the next Speaker of the House, she said: 

“I would tell them to have a phenomenal candidacy speech, one that grabs the chamber’s attention and is more than just a list of accomplishments. It is important to have a speech which resonates with your audience, so choose your words wisely. How has being in this program changed you? Why is this program special? What attributes will you bring to the House?”

Speaker of the House Oliver reflected that she is so grateful to have been elected into this position and has thoroughly enjoyed the roles and responsibilities that she has undertaken throughout the conference. It has been a pleasure for her to hear and examine the bills of so many hopeful and dedicated arguerers. Finally, she cannot wait for another great experience at YIG, next year, which will be her final year of eligibility. 

Oliver is proof that regardless of the experience a delegate has in YIG, they are capable of taking on and being elected into a leadership role. She is an inspiration to all leadership-hopefuls for next year and years to come. Oliver’s hard work showcases that it is not the time that one has been with an organization; rather, it is the level of dedication that is displayed with that organization that will yield success. 

Controversial Bills: Should Felons Have Their Rights Restored? Should Recruiting Minors into the Military be Banned?

by Adrianne Boladas and Kaza Dayton

As the 2021 Youth in Government conferences go on, there are many bills that get passed throughout the chambers, but don’t quite make it through the Senate. Delegates work tirelessly to defend their bills, but unfortunately, not all bills can get past both the House and the Senate. 

This year, Amil Odom of the Walnut St. YMCA delegation had his bill passed through the Rodney House, but was rejected when the Senate evaluated it. His bill is called the “Restoration for Civil Rights Act for Felons” and proposed that felons who had served their time in jail, excluding those who had committed a sexual offense, would be allowed to have their civil rights restored. Odom revealed that he believes his bill wasn’t passed because it lacked detail and context. Throughout the presenting process, the other delegates thought that the content provided didn’t give enough context on specific civil rights and what they do. Odom also stated that he didn’t provide a clear enough picture of what would happen if the bill was to be passed on further. On the other hand, many delegates of the Rodney Chamber agreed to pass this bill because it allowed felons to live and function in a normal society. To improve for next year, Odom will go more in-depth with his definitions and be prepared to give a more thoroughly detailed explanation on what would happen after the bill is passed. 

Another delegate whose bill was not passed by the Senate was Kanmani Duraikkannan of the Odyssey Charter School delegation. Her bill, entitled the “No Military Recruitment of Minors Act,” aimed to terminate any military recruitment of minors. More specifically, military recruiters would not be allowed to recruit underaged students that attend public or charter schools of Delaware. She was very proud of the research she conducted about her bill and hopes to continue advocating for her topic. After reflecting, Delegate Kanmani felt that she needed to find a more impactful way to “stress how harmful the recruitments of minors into the military is even more so [she] could appeal to more delegates in a more bipartisan way.” For next time, Duraikkannan will aim to find more of an effective way to get through to her peers. Delegates like Kanmani who have such passion for their bills fuel the collective efforts of students all across the state to make YIG the amazing program it is today.  

Although Odom and Kanmani are just two of the many delegates presenting their bills, each delegate gains essential life experience with YIG through not only public speaking, but also learning to adapt and accept feedback from peers. This benefits all participants and helps them be better prepared for higher education and any career they aspire to pursue. Regardless of whether their bills were rejected or passed, all delegates should be proud of themselves for possessing the courage to present their ideas in a meaningful and respectful manner. 

Unsung Hero- Delegate Jefferson

by Charis Suh, Charter School of Wilmington Delegation

Emma Jefferson from the Western Family YMCA is one of Youth In Government’s unsung heroes this year! Many delegates commended her for speaking eloquently about her bill and doing well in her presentation. Emma’s bill included creating a more comprehensive sexual health curriculum in DE public high schools. She felt especially driven since she was disappointed in her own education and felt that much was left out. It takes courage to push for change particularly regarding “taboo” subjects that many instructors choose to ignore. The move away from abstinence-only teachings will thoroughly educate students, allowing sexual decision making and safety to ensue. Fortunately, the bill passed with little opposition, surely due to her fluidity and solid argument. Emma is one of YIG’s unsung heroes because she works hard to achieve her goals, and along the way, she has inspired others. While one of her main motivators comes from other members of the western delegation, Emma motivates us all to work hard and push to be better as a community.

2021 First Bill Signed

by Charis Suh, Charter School of Wilmington Delegation

Congratulations to Matthew Haimowitz! This weekend, many legislative delegates presented their bills to the House and Senate, but Matthew’s bill was the first one to be passed. Matthew is a member of the Brandywine delegation, and each year, he returns to YIG for the wonderful opportunities to learn, grow, and develop leadership skills. One of his favorite parts of the program is the exposure to new ideas and thought processes, and believes it is an “invaluable experience that will serve [him] well as [he] grows older.” The leadership positions in legislative specifically appealed to him, and he attests that “there is very little more fulfilling than leading a chamber of passionate philosophers, as I get to do in legislative.” He advises legislative delegates to focus on the debate that comes from examining bills instead of the notion of passing their bills, for the best bills encourage “exciting, thought-provoking debate.” But if one is determined to get their bill passed, they must find a sweet spot between simplicity and complexity: “for a bill to pass, it must be complex enough to adequately address the topic, while also being simple enough for those not familiar with the topic to understand.”

His bill, An Act for Accessible Air Quality, mandates the disclosure of ingredients for candles and air fresheners, and it allows the general public to access information regarding what chemicals scented products release into the air and enter the respiratory system. Matthew became interested in this topic in his AP Research class where he participated in a project involving how scented candles affect air quality. Upon researching, he noted the lack of ingredient disclosure in many of his legal background sources, spurring his motivation for his bill. Matthew feels excited to experience the success from his bill, but “the real fulfillment comes not [from] the end, but the journey.” 

Look out for January 1, 2022, the date when Matthew’s bill ‘comes into effect!’

Opening Ceremonies – YIG 2021

Ben Carroll, Charter School of Wilmington Delegation

The 2021 Youth in Government Model Legislative and Judicial Conference began Friday, March 26th. Like this year’s earlier conference, it was online due to COVID-19 safety precautions. However, with most participants having last year’s virtual conference and this year’s Pre-Leg under their belts, it can be safely assumed that this weekend’s conference will commence without many troubles.

Ms. Anesha Truesdale began with a welcome and a reminder to delegates to continue to exhibit the four core values of YIG regardless of our current situation. The leadership team was then announced: Ryan Balu as the Editor in Chief (assisted by newspaper and blog director Aristomenes Angeletakis, judicial court media director Jiya Patel, photo and video director Charis Suh, and social media director Saanchi Jain), Emily Chimel as the Youth Chief Justice (assisted by Associate Justices Krish Malhotra, Claire Andreasen, Autumn Shahan, Lucia Gotera, and James Edwards), and Anisha Mahuli as Chief Lobbyist. The recently-voted Legislative officers were then announced: Speakers of the House Jillian Cain and Samantha Oliver (assisted by Clerks of the House Parker Cole, Matthew Haimowitz, and Kyle Wilson), President of the Senate Nathan Cho (assisted by Secretary of State Avery Young), and the Youth Governor Amrutha Veeramachineni.

After Chief Justice Chimel led the Pledge of Allegiance, Clerk of the House Cole gave the Oath of Office for all the Representative delegates and Secretary of State Young did the same for the Senate delegates. Chief Justice Chimel then took over again, relaying this year’s judicial case, Amy Underwood v. The University of Columbus.

There was a guest speaker, Mr. Coby Owens, a civil rights activist and candidate for WIlmington city council. A young activist, Mr. Owens has led meetings, nonviolent protests, and marches to promote and achieve change. He has served as an executive committee member of the Delaware NAACP, president of a Habitat for Humanity chapter, and in various political organizations. Mr. Owens mentioned that he had been a part of Delaware’s largest single-day protest last summer, an event that, like many other similar ones, allowed change to occur in the wake of the deaths of people such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Treyvon Martin. He used to feel exhausted with the constant fight for equality, but since the protests began, he felt a new surge of confidence with the movement. He said that he’s come to realize that “it isn’t only about tearing down. It’s also about building.” Social media allows us to address issues from around the world and organize events to change them. “Young people have the power to bring change, whether it’s political or policy, whether it’s just getting the local community center more funding, it all starts at the root of getting a proper education, learning how to have proper debate on the issue. Whether you agree or not, we have to be civil when going about these changes. We have to listen to the people who are more prominent to the issues because those are the ones who are able to come up with the true solutions.”

Governor Veeramachineni then spoke, recounting her YIG experiences throughout the years. She has come to realize that although getting your bills passed is definitely a nice accomplishment, the real benefit of YIG is learning how to engage in meaningful debate. She then went over the YMCA core values and their impact on her life.

This year and the past one have been quite turbulent. We’re quite fortunate to be able to meet and conduct the Youth in Government conference, so remember to thank your YDLs and branch leaders for putting this year’s program together.

2021 YIG Judicial Case

by Jiya Patel and Ellery Underhill

Sareena Modi, judicial delegate from the Charter School of Wilmington, gave us an outline of the case. Essentially, the University of Columbus implemented an admissions policy that addressed the gender imbalance of underrepresented male applicants. Amy Underwood, law school applicant, was denied admission despite her impressive academic scores. The data that Underwood obtained under the Freedom of Information revealed that she fit well within the highest margin of the application cycle’s academic applicant group. Furthermore, Underwood noticed that all of the female applicants met or exceeded her scores, yet many of the male applicants demonstrated significantly lower scores. The evidence led Underwood to an obvious conclusion – the University of Columbus made a discriminative judgment regarding Underwood’s application, a clear violation of the Equal Protection Clause. 

Following the rejection of her application, Amy Underwood publicly contested the decision in both academic settings and national broadcasts, making references to the admissions policy. Due to the nature of Underwood’s statements regarding the UOC’s policy and program in general, the University terminated Amy Underwood’s employment as a lecturer. 

Sareena personally thinks that the Petitioner has the strongest argument. She thinks the University should not have implemented a gender-based admissions policy in an effort to retain UOC’s Tier 1 Status. The policy is blatantly discriminatory and the University even stated that Underwood would have been accepted if she were a male. Furthermore, the University is unmistakably violating the Equal Protections Clause. Sareena also doesn’t think that Underwood should have been fired for merely speaking on an issue that concerns future applicants. Sareena stated: “Underwood has the right to freedom of speech, as outlined in the 1st amendment, and should not be punished for merely expressing her opinions about the injustice in this policy.”  Autumn Shahan, an associate justice, shared similar sentiments. She said, “One really interesting aspect of the case this year is debating in what role Underwood was acting under while speaking out against UOC and their policies.”

Written Advisor Interview with Toph Patterson

By Ben Carroll, Charter School of Wilmington Delegation

Ben: This is Ben Carroll of the Charter School of Wilmington Delegation. I’m here with Mr. Toph Patterson, a long-time member of YIG. How are you doing, Mr. Patterson?

Mr. Patterson: Doing well. I wish we were all in Legislative Hall today, but Zoom will just have to do.

Ben: Yeah, I do miss it, but things are going pretty alright so far. How long have you been involved with Youth in Government?

Mr. Patterson: I’ve been an advisor since 1997, I think. I also participated for two years in high school, so that would’ve been ‘91 and ‘92.

Ben: Nice. So you said you’re an advisor for the program, right?

Mr. Patterson: Correct.

Ben: What kinds of things do you do?

Mr. Patterson: My main job is to make sure that the students from the Dover Delegation are as prepared as they can be for the conference, that they know what to expect. My personal approach has always been to give them as much information as I can about the program, but it’s ultimately up to them to do their own research, come up with their own arguments, and really learn how to develop their own opinions and be able to support them, so it’s not just a matter of saying ‘I think x.’ It’s ‘I think x because…’ When we’re at conference, I do a lot of general helping out; again, primarily making sure the Dover students are okay, but then I help Anesha or whomever the state director is with a lot of logistics.

Ben: Yeah, so just helping out wherever. That’s good. How would you say things are going so far this year compared to other years?

Mr. Patterson: Again, this is the first time we’ve done a virtual Pre-Leg, and I think it’s going okay. It’s certainly not as good as being in person, but I’ve found, especially over the last year from the full legislative session we had last year as well as some of the YMCA programs, the youth leadership is really stepping up. They recognize that this is not optimal, but they’re also very flexible and they’re very quick to solve problems. I think a lot of the technical challenges are more of a concern for the old people like me, and it’s the youth leadership and the youth participants who are able to adjust to them very quickly.

Ben: I’ve noticed that as well, and I think it’s going pretty well. What’s made you come back to Youth in Government over all these years?

Mr. Patterson: What’s really interesting to me and what’s really valuable has been watching the students grow. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone come in as a freshman or a middle schooler and they’re very quiet, very reserved, sitting in a corner afraid to talk, and by the time they’re juniors or seniors, they are expressing themselves, they now have well-founded opinions and are able to express them. I’ve seen many grow like that and I’ve seen many alumni go on to do bigger things, really based on what they’ve learned here. We have a current state senator who participated in the program (Senator Sarah McBride), and I seem to remember after the 2018 elections, 4 out of the 50 governors in the United States were former Youth in Government participants. I’ve seen a lot of students during my 25 years here go on and do some really great things. So that’s what I like. I like seeing the leaders of tomorrow really find their voices and find their passion.

Ben: I really think that’s what Youth in Government’s all about.

Mr. Patterson: Sarah McBride, who is a newly-elected state senator from North Wilmington – I forget the district – was a participant in 2008, 2009 (?). She only did one year, got picked for CONA, and chose not to go. I still kind of scold her for that. But she’s turned out okay.

Ben: Yeah. She talked at the regular conference last year, right?

Mr. Patterson: Uh… two years ago. The last in-person conference.

Ben: Ah, yes. Alright. What’s been your favorite moment of Youth in Government?

Mr. Patterson: There are so many. It’s hard for me to pick one. One of the questions I also get a lot is ‘which was your favorite year?’ and I’ve got to tell you, there’s been good and bad in every year – the good usually outweighs the bad… I’ve also been the one to take the kids to the Conference on National Affairs – I think it’s been about 15 years – and again, every year, it’s a great group of kids, so I can’t really compare one set to another. What really gets me is seeing that person, and jeez, I could name a dozen individuals over the years, who came in the door really shy and quiet, and by the time they leave, they’re ready to take over the world. That’s just great to see.

Ben: Alright, just a final question: do you have any advice for new delegates?

Mr. Patterson: You get out of this program what you put into it. If you’re just going to sit, present your bill, make your one argument, and then not talk for the rest of the weekend, you’re going to get really bored. The more that you can talk, the more you can interact with people from other delegations, when we have people from Sussex talking to people from Wilmington talking to people from Kent County talking to all these different groups. Delaware isn’t too large of a state, but we all have different life experiences and it’s great when we can just talk to each other and learn what other people, even in the same state, are going through and see those different viewpoints. One of the things I always say is “if you have a good YIG weekend, it’s because you were able to change someone’s opinion based on things you know. If you have a great YIG weekend, it’s because you changed your opinion based on something you learned.” Be open-minded, listen to everyone, talk to each other, and you’ll do great.

Ben: That is very good advice. Thank you, Mr. Patterson, for sharing your experiences and words of wisdom.

Gaining a Voice Through Youth in Government: A Quadrennial Year for Kemper Cole

By Kaza Dayton, Sussex Delegation

Youth in Government is not only a place for students to be engaged and immersed in the structure of governmental proceedings but also a place to discover passion and confidence. The program often has such an influential effect on students that they return every year until graduation in order to experience all that Youth in Government has to offer. 

Four-year participant Kemper Cole reflected on his first virtual pre-leg session. Although it was clearly a very different experience this year, he was just as excited as ever to participate with his peers throughout the organization. As former President of the Senate (2020) and the Sussex Youth Delegation Leader (2020, 2021), Kemper has spent a significant amount of time with the program and has participated in both virtual and in-person YIG events. He admitted that he is “very hopeful for YIG this year because this community is amazing and will make the conference incredible regardless of the circumstances.” 

Youth in Government acts as an outlet for self-discovery. “I joined YIG looking for a home,” Kemper commented “and I found it pretty much instantly.” Especially in the middle of a pandemic, it is essential to connect with others and continue to participate in activities that students value. New and returning participants alike share the same desire for engaging in meaningful discussions and establishing lasting relationships. 

YIG has offered so many of its participants the ability to gain confidence as well. Kemper admitted that the program offered him the opportunity to become a better advocate for himself. “By my freshman year, I was confident enough to debate in front of hundreds of people…and by the following year I had built up the courage to run for President of the Senate.” He shared that Youth in Government helped him shape who he is as an individual. 

This program encourages personal growth and fosters an academically stimulating environment for all participants. Even virtually, Youth in Government will provide the same rich experience and meaningful relationships that it always has. Here’s to a PHENOMENAL conference!