Brian Hamilton: YMCA Model Legislature an impressive, inspiring experience
February 21, 2017
"I can't remember the last time I got up at 5 o'clock for anything," the young man said as we drove down I-80 to Sacramento.
If there's anything to get Bjorn Johnson up and at 'em at that hour, rest assured, politics would likely do the trick.
Bjorn, a sophomore at Bitney College Prep in Grass Valley, shared his passion for politics when we first met now nearly a year ago, as we discussed what he'd like to do during his high school internship with The Union.
On Friday morning, at the YMCA's 69th annual Youth & Government Model Legislature & Court, Bjorn was clearly with his people.
Quite a few of his people, in fact.
Nearly 3,500 high school students packed the Sacramento Convention Center, as they recreated California's government in their own form. Over a six-month period, delegates from throughout the state work together to find solutions to state issues that were brought to Sacramento.
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"Legislation will be debated, court cases decided and next year's Youth Governor will be elected at the closing joint session," the program brochure states.
Our day began with two-minute speeches from four candidates, remaining from more than 20 who initially ran for the office, making their case to become the 70th Youth Governor. Their inspiring messages spoke to their own ability to change the state and nation for the better, that their moment had arrived and it was time to seize the opportunity.
Throughout the day, we saw examples of how they were doing it.
We watched as delegates debated a new form of governance for the Golden State, including one proposal that would have the state governed by two elected officials, and another petitioning for a parliament approach. Both proposals drew a great deal of scrutiny over whether such approaches would exchange improved efficiency for a less representative government.
Delegates also took on the role of committee chairs, lobbyists and even members of the media, chronicling each day's events.
The entire program was quite impressive, and the participants were even more so.
We attended as guests of MaryJane Huenergardt of the Gold Country YMCA, which hopes to establish its own delegation of students participating in the 70th annual event. MaryJane served as advisor to the program this year and said she hopes western Nevada County students are presented with the opportunity. She also hopes our community will support them, in order to provide scholarship opportunities to ensure participation isn't deterred due to costs, a sentiment shared by several students we spoke with and candidates for Youth Governor.
And, judging from his reaction to the experience, our young intern just might be among those interested in serving as Gold Country delegate.
Throughout the day, Bjorn talked with several students and advisors to get a better understanding of what the Model Legislature is all about — for both a story he's writing for The Union (See Thursday's edition), and for his own interests.
Whether he was interviewing the current Youth Governor, Ariana Trujillo, or a delegate who had just presented his own proposed bill, Bjorn was immersed with his people — regardless of their political persuasion, their passion was as apparent as Bjorn's self-described "Libertarian streak."
Watching these young people interact on such a professional level, poised to find solutions to problems that have long plagued us, was both impressive and inspiring.
If the chance does arise for western Nevada County students to form a delegation, there's no doubt the experience would be well worth getting an early start to the day.
And, like our young intern, you just might find yourself with your people.
Contact Editor Brian Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4249.