‘We have a bright future ahead of us’

Junior Maggie Simonyan traveled to Sacramento and participated in a weekend of government immersion.

Maggie Simonyan

Stepping off of the charter bus that brought us five long hours halfway up the state, my gaze turned to the tall, luminous buildings of downtown Sacramento. I had been preparing and anticipating this moment for months. The time had finally come for me to present my proposal to the National Assembly program of Youth and Government.

Youth and Government (YAG) is a YMCA initiative that offers high school students the opportunity to serve in model governments at the local, state, national and international levels. Every year, students join a program, whether it be Constitutional Convention, Appellate Court, Supreme Court or Department of Finance, and are given the same duties as representatives in these governmental offices. The various programs teach democratic ideals by bringing together a cross-section of high school students from across the state of California to participate in model legislature and court.

This was my first year as a member of YAG, and I participated in the “National Assembly Program” this year. When I began the program in October, we were tasked with developing a solution plan for a severe national healthcare or climate change issue.

I worked weeks and weeks on end reading and researching all I could about the government and the healthcare system so that I could put forth valid arguments. At last, I decided to propose a solution to the ongoing issue of medical malpractice, which entailed lobbying Congress to renew the Medical Liability Reform Act of 1991.

In Sacramento, I had the opportunity of debating whether or not my plan was feasible with other delegates and obtaining critique and guidance from the deputy heads of my program. This program provided me with the opportunity to immerse myself in the realm of government and learn about the complexity that it entails.

My experience during my three-day stay was unimaginable. I was entirely surrounded by the most ambitious and motivated people to my left and right. Everyone who came to Sacramento that weekend from Feb. 10 – Feb. 13 had a fresh vision, a different perspective and a strong passion for government. We are the future of this state and this country, and having the opportunity to engage with these individuals throughout the weekend convinced me that we have a bright future ahead of us.

Through the program, I was able to establish friendships and connections with delegates from all the way up in Berkley, to Torrance South Bay and all the way down to San Diego. This instilled in me a great sense of belonging.

I am very saddened that the program came to an end this year, but I am looking forward to participating in it again next year. I was so empowered and inspired by my time there that I ran and was elected vice president of the Mid-Valley delegation on March 2 and intend to run for Deputy Chief Officer of the National Assembly Program for the 2023-2024 year. As a cabinet member of the Mid-Valley delegation, I will be attending a leaders summer camp which will train and prepare me for the upcoming year.

YAG was a life-changing experience that I will never forget. It showed me that I have the capability and potential to make great change not just in my community, but also in the nation as a whole.