Being in government isn’t all that bad, guys


Anne Lima

Students vote for their chosen delegate as a part of the “mock Sacramento” experience at the youth government program.

Anne Lima

This past Valentine’s Day week I wasn’t focused on candy hearts, chocolate or giant teddy bears. Instead, I was in Sacramento participating in the California YMCA Youth and Government program (Y&G).

This program is a replica of the Legislature and Court system that we have here in California and is targeted towards high school teenagers. In the program, they are given opportunities to participate in debate on government proposals and reforms, speak freely on current events and train to become future leaders.

I am part of the East Valley YMCA delegation and have been a delegate since I was in the ninth grade. I got into Y&G through participating in the Model United Nations, when I was in middle school. Each year in the program delegates attend weekly meetings where we debate with others on proposals, past and present and we give out our opinion on a current event.

We then attend three conferences. Two of our first conferences used to take place at the army base Camp Roberts in Paso Robles but recently it was changed to Fresno, Calif.

At these first two conferences, we are all basically split up into exploring all the different program areas that we can participate with in the program, such as Media, Department of Finance, Board of Education, etc. Once we choose which program area we want to participate in then we make our way to Sacramento, where all the things that we’ve trained for within our program gets used.

In Sacramento this year, all the delegates (more than 3,100 in all)  had the honor of having Governor Jerry Brown open up our conference. This was really exciting because the program hasn’t been visited by a Governor since Arnold Schwarzenegger, though Assembly people and Senators have also come to speak to us every year about the work they do in their respective counties and cities.

Delegates then can go up to a placed microphone and ask the guests questions. This program, which covers much of California, spends about a week in Sacramento. This week often falls around Valentine’s Day and the delegates have coined the term “Sacentines Day” do denote the event.

During our time in the program, especially Sacramento, is where we hold statewide elections, the biggest election being that of Youth Governor. This year East Valley did have a candidate running for Youth Governor, Ted Goldstein. He made into the top two against his opponent Nicholas Gardner from the San Pedro delegation, but Gardner eventually won the election.

Delegates may also run for officer positions within their delegation such as, President, Community Liaison or Speaker of the House, as well as running for statewide positions such as Youth Governor (which is our equivalent of an actual Governor), Secretary of State and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

The elections are a very intense process, not only for the candidates, but for the other delegates as well. The candidates really need the support and help of their delegation if they really want to get their name and platform out there to all the other delegations. The elections take countless hours of campaigning including speeches and trips to different delegations, making posters and buttons and the campaign manager making sure that their candidate(s) are connecting with the other delegates and separating themselves from the other candidates. The political parties are also huge part of the process of getting someone elected, but a candidate can also choose not to run with a party and become unaffiliated, which is risky, but this year it seemed to have worked in Ted’s favor.

At the end of Sacramento we have the Governor’s Banquet which is essentially a send off and wrap up of the whole program and it’s also where delegates find out who our new youth governor is.

This program has been a great experience for me. It helps us all build character, to become leaders in our own right in whatever we want to do when we become adults. It has made me more self aware of what’s going on in my community, state, country and in other countries as well.

You don’t have to want to be interested in politics in order to enjoy this program because at the end of the day it is guaranteed that you’ll form bonds with the other kids, learn about issues and events that aren’t being discussed in schools currently and indulge in the freedom and independence that comes with getting closer into adulthood.