It wasn’t easy getting there, but once they did, the 117 students representing the South Pasadena-San Marino YMCA kept a “positive attitude” and turned a difficult situation in to a good one.
“Ultimately it was a hugely successful and rewarding conference,” said Jordan Bell, the teen program director for the local “Y,” talking about last weekend’s Youth & Government’s Model Legislature & Court at the State Capitol in Sacramento.
Students representing the South Pasadena – San Marino YMCA Chapter joined about 3,000 delegates from around the state during the four-day Presidents’ weekend getaway, designed to provide high school students a first-hand look at governmental practices while they learn how to solve community issues through the democratic process and debate topics with their peers from throughout California.
Half of the group representing South Pasadena – San Marina arrived a day late as a result of travel delays, “but they kept a positive attitude and hit the ground running when they arrived,” explained Bell. “It was four long days of presenting, debating, proposing and learning.”
YMCA Youth & Government’s Model Legislature & Court has been the state’s premier youth leadership and civic development program for 70 years.
Before heading to the State Capitol, YMCA’s throughout the state prepare the delegates through a sixth month learning program, which focuses on the values of government in action.
Students take part in the state-run program through delegations in local YMCA’s or schools throughout the state. Weekly meetings, led by adult advisers, are held at delegations, which generally begin the first week of school in the fall and conclude with the trip to Sacramento.
Delegations come to Sacramento after creating bills about pertinent issues. They also research and practice court cases in anticipation attending thre annual Model Legislature & Model Court at the state Capitol.
Once in Sacramento, Bell explained, the bills developed by delegations are debated in committees, before going to the floor of the Assembly and/or Senate.
If a bill is passed, it is then sent on to the Youth Governor who makes the decision to sign it.
The model legislature and court offers a full line of “job” opportunities for delegates, from journalists, broadcasters, pages, lobbyists to positions as state board members, national issues commissioners, legislative counsels, historians, and more.
It’s all guided by the YMCA’s motto: “Democracy must be learned by each generation.”
Among the individual successes last week in Sacramento, South Pasadena High Senior Rita Mastromatteo had her proposal passed all the way through the National Issues Commission General Assembly and signed by the Youth Governor.
The South Pasadena – San Marino delegation was also awarded the label of Delegation of Distinction, which was earned by their actions throughout year in various facets of the program.
Bell said a large contingent of freshmen, representing the local ‘Y,” made their first trip to the Sacramento conference “unscathed and eager to return to the program in the fall.”
The YMCA teen director, glad to be back in South Pasadena, managed to keep spirits high following the travel struggles. “Everyone stayed safe and had fun, the two most important outcomes from the conference,” said Bell.