Local students joined nearly 700 students, advisors and volunteers from around the state participating in the 59th Annual Florida YMCA Youth in Government (YIG) State Assembly in Tallahassee. Historic City News learned that students served in the actual Florida Senate and House chambers as well as in the Cabinet and Supreme Court offices during the 3-day session, committed to “debate ideas not people”.
The yearlong, nonpartisan program allows students to improve their public speaking and debate skills while they express their opinions, ignite change, and represent their generation.
Involved students may obtain scholarships and college credit. Bill topics represent each student’s personal interests in Florida politics. Student Chloe Smith-Lopez has been a legislative aide for State Representative Doc Renuart and Rohan Bhargava has been a legislative aide for State Representative Cyndi Stevenson. Samantha Cosme, now at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., is currently an intern in the US Senate for Marco Rubio.
Kaitlyn Kessler, American University, studied abroad this year and interned in Scottish Parliament. The president of Stanton Preparatory High School’s YIG chapter, Vanessa Ruales will attend Harvard University this fall.
In Florida First Coast’s fifth year, 86 students participated from five different chapters (Clay County, Sandalwood High School, Stanton Prep, St. Johns County, and Johnson Family YMCA) representing numerous high schools, home school, Florida Virtual School & middle schools from St. Johns, Clay & Duval counties. Thirty-eight senior students went to Tallahassee with bills to debate.
St Johns outgoing chapter president, Emma Loya, passed her bill in the House and Senate and it was signed into law by the Youth Governor. Jeffrey Krueger’s bill passed both chambers and made it to the Executive Cabinet. Students debated pro and con and many co-sponsored peer’s bills in the alternate chambers.
Other outgoing chapter presidents included Nicole Eldeb, Sandalwood; Vanessa Ruales, Stanton Prep; Quiwanaki Ramsey, Johnson YMCA; Myah Eliam, Clay County.
Outgoing delegation officers included Emma Loya (who also served as delegation president) and secretary, Katherine Scott.
Daniel Kessler was elected incoming Speaker of the Sullivan House as a state officer. Committee chairs at State Assembly included: Daniel Kessler. Sanjana Bhargava, Camya Robinson, Jalicia Lewis, Mitchell Nuland, and Myah Eliam. Kessler, Bhargava, and Quiwanaki Ramsey were selected as representatives for the Conference on National Affairs to take place this summer.
Vanessa Ruales was selected as a Youth Advocate during the YMCA’s Advocacy Days at the Capitol where she interacted with members of the legislature and joined YMCA CEOs, Volunteers, and Staff from across Florida as they advocated for youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility policies during the legislative session.
Rachel Bitutsky, won a coveted “Look-out Award” at State Assembly.
The new delegation officers for year 2016-2017 include: Quiwanaki Ramsey, president; Jamllia Wilson, Vice President; Jaelyn Taylor, Secretary
JUNIOR YOUTH IN GOVERNMENT (JYIG): Eight weeks of meeting preparation by Emma Loya, Sanjana Bhargava, Katherine Scott, Katherine Sims, and Daniel Kessler culminated in a local Junior Assembly for middle school students with Cyndi Stevenson as a special guest. Quiwanaki Ramsey and Chloe Smith-Lopez also assisted with the assembly. All involved students are appreciative of our county government for the use of the impressive chambers.
Junior Assembly is similar to the senior state assembly, but includes guidance from high school mentors. They also take on the role of senators and representatives while debating their bills, and learn the legislative process. The program enables students to voice their opinion on social and political issues at a young age, and aims to engage them in a world outside their own.
YMCA coordinators are Ruth Spencer, Ashley Escobar, Dani Slader, Omara Ramsey and Leslie Cook. Volunteer program advisors include: Tim Brooks, Nancy Birchall, Jeani Taliaferro, Andrew Dozier, Kevin Sharpe, and Ivan Matos.
Find out more about the YIG and JYIG program and our delegation by contacting Ashley Escobar at the St. Augustine YMCA, 904-471-9622 (ext. 8), visit www.firstcoastymca.org and search for “YIG” or our Face book page: “YMCA Youth in Government of Florida’s First Coast”