Genesee Valley students ‘practice democracy’ at state conference
BELMONT – Three students from Genesee Valley Central School participated in a hands-on civic engagement lesson at the annual New York State Government and Youth (YAG) conference in March. Sophomores Sophia Gugino and Lealah Greene joined junior Nathan Slawson at the virtual conference.
Sponsored by the YMCA, the YAG Conference is a three-day experiential learning program in which students are part of a model state government, taking over from the Senate and Assembly chambers of the New York State to debate bills they and their peers have drafted.
Slawson and Gugino worked together to introduce a bill that would require university professors and educators to take a training course on sexual violence. Their bill was passed by the chambers, but was ultimately not enacted.
The virtual conference format presented students with new opportunities – and new challenges.
“Because of the virtual platform,” said Gugino, “it’s so much more important to be attentive and actively listen.
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Slawson, a four-year veteran of YAG conferences, has earned a second consecutive trip to the national conference this summer where he will look to revise his proposal from last year and move further into the conference.
Greene worked with students from other school districts (Saratoga Springs and Long Island) on a bill that would create a tax credit for restaurateurs who donated to food banks or other food programs d ’emergency. The trio’s efforts ultimately paid off, as their bill was finally enacted.
“I enjoyed that we were able to collaborate with people from all over New York City,” Greene commented, “unlike in previous years when we only stayed in our district.”
For these students, Youth And Government has played a vital role in their personal and academic development.
“YAG taught me that when you’re really passionate about a topic, you have to follow it,” Gugino said. “My work ethic and dedication have improved since joining this program.”
“Each year I leave the conference with renewed faith in my generation and become more passionate about the things I believe in,” Greene concluded.
Genesee Valley YAG Advisor Donna Slawson sees National and National Conferences as invaluable opportunities for students: “This is real STEAM learning in action! Our students did superb debate, research and problem-solving skills while learning all about the ins and outs of how our government works.