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Youth & Government delegation is largest and most successful in program’s history

By Sean Kennedy

The YMCA’s Youth & Government Conference brings together high school students from across the state in a model legislature complete with delegates, judges and members of the press. Sean Kennedy, co-director of college counseling, serves as an advisor for Ravenscroft’s delegation, which attended this year’s conference in Raleigh Feb. 14-17.

Over three and a half very busy days, the 34 Ravens attending the 2019 YMCA Youth & Government (YAG) Conference put on the best collective performance in our delegation’s history. Aside from being the largest delegation we’ve sent downtown, this marks the first time we’ve achieved awards in both the legislative and judicial areas of the program. As with any experience, there were frustrations and disappointments, but the way the students handled those moments was truly impressive. No matter the outcome, the hard work and great preparation of the students clearly paid off!

In the Freshmen Forum, our newest YAG students filled roles as bill authors, budget analysts and lobbyists. Ethan Erickson ’22 co-authored a bill that passed through both chambers of the Forum. Simone Baldwin ’22, Marlee Lambert ’22, Eugene Lee ’22 and Alexa Shaffer ’22 gained valuable experience that will serve them well at future conferences.

In the House and Senate, we had a mix of new and returning students involved in all facets of the program. Our lobbyists (Nick Fay ’21, Sasha Nainani ’20, Lauren Shaffer ’20, Claire Ziperski ’20 and Nick Zullo ’19) and budget analysts (Payne Gridley ’20, Julian Reiter ’21, Ross Weiman ’20 and Josh Youngbar ’21) managed the challenges of supporting or opposing bills as they made their way through the legislative process. Lauren’s great work as a lobbyist led to her appointment as senior lobbyist for next year, where she will guide and coach all of the conference lobbyists from around the state.

Ravenscroft’s delegation also placed representatives and senators in the legislative arena. Erin Pugh ’19, Ted Bossong ’20, Charlie Fink ’20 and Clarke Haywood ’21 did not have bills in the conference but were excellent in their roles. Our delegation had three of the 100 bills selected for consideration at the conference, and all three were signed into law by the governor, the greatest accomplishment a bill can earn. A bill by Jackson Buttler ’20 and Shaurik Deshpande ’20, one by Mark Naslund ’21 and one by Zander Reed ’19 were among the 35 bills that survived votes in the House and Senate to make it before the Governor’s Cabinet, where just 19 bills were passed by the governor. Rhett Parham ’20 served as a floor leader, a first for our delegation, and his efforts (both this year and in years past) led to his selection as secretary of state for 2019-20. As a member of the 11-student executive officer team, Rhett will play a substantial leadership role throughout the upcoming year, as this group is responsible for planning for the 2020 conference.

Our delegation saw considerable growth in the judicial roles, with Sierra Riley ’21, Taylor Norton ’21 and Alex Jones ’21 serving on mock trial teams. Each was really strong in fulfilling different roles within the trials. Sierra and her team were selected for the Mock Trial All-Star Round, which they won. Elsewhere in the judicial branch, our army of attorneys in the Court of Appeals had a truly impressive showing. Groups comprising Brad Taber ’20, Lee Plummer ’20 and Andrew Bardini ’21; Kemmia Ghodrat ’19, Xena Gray ’19 and Hannah Pangborn ’19; and Isabella Bredwell ’19 and Sky Wiseman ’20 won 10 of their 13 rulings. Isabella and Sky’s team was selected for the All-Star Court of Appeals round as one of the two championship teams!

On other great news, Erin Pugh, our student delegation leader, was one of two nominees from the entire conference selected to represent North Carolina at the YMCA National Advocacy Days Program in Washington, D.C., in March. This is a big honor!

The YMCA offers summer programs similar to the YAG conference and for students in the judicial roles of Mock Trial and Court of Appeals. Interested students should consider applying for them. Later this semester, our delegation will turn its attention to next year’s conference in February 2020 and begin recruiting new members from the returning Upper School student body and current eighth-grade class.

Ravenscroft’s participation in the Youth & Government conference is made possible in part by a generous grant from the Pope Foundation. Many thanks for their continued support.