Guest post from Hope Howard
High School Youth In Government (YIG) is a weekend of dedication, sleep deprivation, and plenty of debate. The high school YIG program has positions in all three branches of government, as well as press corps and lobbyists, in order to make the most comprehensive mock-government experience possible. There are a total of four legislative chambers from which to choose: blue House of Representatives, blue Senate, red House of Representatives, and red Senate. The red chambers are for experienced delegates, while the blue chambers are reserved for mostly first years. These chambers write and pass bills. Each Representative or Senator team writes and researches a bill to present to committee and possibly the full chamber. If it passes both chambers, it goes to the student YIG conference governor to be signed into law or vetoed. All YIG officers in all chambers are elected each year by the students at the conference. Most importantly, the governor is elected each year to make up the executive branch. The governor has a Governor’s Cabinet which advises him and also maintains each department. By the end of the weekend, they have written and passed a state budget from all of the bills passed and signed into law. The YIG conference even has a full judicial branch. There are Supreme Court justices and lawyers that spend the weekend arguing constitutionality of a new case given to them each year. For those not interested in one of the branches, there are also the options of press or lobbyist. The press publishes a print paper twice, and the video press produces a broadcast news program throughout the weekend. The lobbyists encourage passage or failure of different bills with the purpose of influencing government officials’ votes. From the press to the House of Representative, YIG has a position for everyone.
Westminster had students in both blue chambers and the red House of Representatives, as well as press. This year, I served in the red House of Representatives and I loved it! The weekend started out by leaving for Nashville at the crack of dawn Thursday morning with the other delegates from schools in Memphis. We arrived in Nashville and for the first day split into committees based on bill topic to present and rank each bill. The rest of the weekend consisted of full chambers at which the highest ranked bills were presented, debated, and passed or failed. Then all branches of YIG government, as well as press and lobbyists, met in the state capital. The red chambers met in the actual state House of Representatives and Senate. The Tennessee state capital is 156 years old and is absolutely beautiful. It is mostly made of marble quarried in mountains of East Tennessee, and it has been the location for several historic occasions such as the ratification of the 19th amendment which gave women the right to vote. One of my favorite things about YIG is the time when we meet inside this awe inspiring building.
The YIG weekend is not all work and no play. There are several amusing events that break up all of the meetings and debates. There is a very difficult trivia competition, known as YIG Bowl, where teams from all the different schools compete to see who knows the most obscure and diverse facts. Two conference dances occur on Friday and Saturday. On Friday students also attend the governor’s banquet, which is a formal dinner given in honor of the conference governor. The most exclusive event at YIG, however, is the lobbyist’s luncheon. This is an invitation only meal for the lobbyists and their choice of guest. It is held at the top of one of Nashville’s hotels in a revolving restaurant. All of these things are only a few of the many highlights of the weekend.
Now for a few warnings about YIG. If a delegate is out of order, either in parliamentary procedure or any other manner, he is not merely corrected, he is fined by the sergeant-at-arms. Also, since our conference was earlier this year than it has been, it was more chilly than expected. This unexpected cold caught many off guard and caused many shivers. However, this cold weather can easily be remedied by a hot vanilla latte or two, but always be prepared for any type of weather. In conclusion, I want to urge all who love rowdy debates during a weekend away to participate in YIG.
Note: All thirteen of our WA students did an excellent job at this year’s YMCA YIG conference. Of the 800 students in attendance, Westminster student James Hickman received an outstanding delegate award for his work in the Blue Senate and Andrew Laurence was selected for the second year in a row to attend the National Affairs conference.