Nevada County Rotary groups team up to support Youth & Government program | TheUnion.com

Nevada County Rotary groups team up to support Youth & Government program

Submitted to The Union

The Rotary Club of Grass Valley South and Rotary District 5190 teamed up this Rotary year to award a $4,000 grant to the inaugural Gold Country Delegation of the California YMCA Youth & Government's Model Legislature & Court high school program.

The program, called "Y&G MLC" for short, just finished its 70th year. It is a six-month, learn-by-doing curriculum that aims to teach the values of democracy by providing high school students the opportunity to experience government first-hand.

The program's weekly meetings, community activities, and three annual, statewide conferences offer participating students ("delegates") a chance to learn how they can solve community problems through the democratic process. The program provides a vehicle for teaching leadership skills, respect and civility in discourse, and the importance of being an engaged citizen.

Y&G MLC alumni demonstrate higher voter registration and turnout rates, are three times as likely to work on community issues, and are almost four times as likely to earn a bachelor's degree, compared with nonparticipants, according to the program's website.

The Gold Country Delegation, which was comprised of four local students, was awarded the honor of "Delegation of Distinction." Program Advisor MaryJane Huenergardt attributed this honor to the support of Rotary.

"In addition to the Rotary team's sponsorship of local delegates with program scholarships, the Rotary Club of Grass Valley South's commitment included participation in the program in various support roles" Huenergardt said. "Rotarians were guest advisors at weekly program meetings, coached the delegates in public speaking, talked to the delegates about their various endeavors in local politics, law enforcement, and campaigns, and taught the delegates proper etiquette in preparation for formal dining experiences at the final conference."

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The Rotary club also invited the delegation to present twice at its Tuesday morning meetings: once at the beginning of the Y&G MLC program year, then again at the end of the program year. At both meetings, delegates presented information about their program areas and held "bill hearing" sessions.

During the bill hearing sessions, delegates demonstrated parliamentary procedure in different roles, framing the delivery of speeches written as State Senate bill author/sponsor as well as pro- and con-lobbyists. Between these two book-ending presentations, Rotarians were able to witness the program's impact on its participants.

Additionally, the president and two other members of the Rotary Club of Grass Valley South attended "VIP Day" at the final conference, held at the Sacramento Convention Center and State Capitol Building, where they were able to observe the program in action.

"It was a pleasure and honor to work to with these four young people and witness their commitment to excellence," said Carol Scofield, President of the Rotary Club of Grass Valley South, after VIP Day. "MaryJane, their advisor and a fellow Rotarian, is a star. We look forward to these young people growing and contributing in our community and beyond. How wonderful to see them as Rotarians in the future."

Bjorn Johnson, the Gold Country delegation's first delegate and next year's delegation President, committed to helping bring the program to the community after attending VIP Day last year.

"I think that political activity in youth has been a very positive aspect of not just my life but many lives," he explained. "Our local Rotary makes it possible and really steps up in supporting our county."

Delegate parent Shana Stratton weighed in: "Y&G has given our son, Skyler Hancock, an excellent source of inspiration and drive as he starts his freshman year at Bitney Prep Charter High School. The professional skills that he is learning as he works with Y&G peers and advisors both at weekly meetings and during conferences are priceless. This year he helped to draft a bill to increase public school funding for career and technical education. How wonderful is that?"

Other local supporters of Y&G MLC have included Sierra Commons, which provided weekly meeting space for the delegation; the City of Grass Valley, which hosted a promotional night in its council chambers; and the League of Women Voters of Western Nevada County (LWVWNC), which provided an early support pledge while the program was promoting and preparing for its launch. The President of the LWVWNC, Janice Bedayn, also attended VIP Day and commented, "The YMCA Youth & Government conference was a spectacular display of youthful commitment to the democratic process. These are the kids who will be bringing vision, setting goals and actively legislating in a few short years. It was an honor to be at the VIP Day."

The Gold Country Delegation of California YMCA Youth & Government's middle school program, Model United Nations ("Y&G MUN"), is currently in its inaugural year.

Rotary Club of Grass Valley South, chartered in 2002, includes in its membership local business and professional leaders, retirees, and others whose primary interest is helping others. The mission of Rotary International is to provide service to others, promote integrity, and advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through its fellowship of business, professional, and community leaders.

To learn more about the Rotary Club of Grass Valley South, visit gvsrotary.org. To learn more about Y&G, visit calymca.org.

Source: Rotary Club of Grass Valley South