The state government’s system and duties can be difficult to understand, especially for high school students who are not even old enough to vote.
But Dawson County High School’s Y Club took a proactive approach to help students grasp the complexities of government by attending the State YMCA’s annual Youth Assembly in Atlanta for a state capitol “take over” weekend event.
For three days, Nov. 23-25, students from all over Georgia, set up a mock state government, simulating all three branches of government to learn first-hand how the legislative, judicial and executive branches operate.
“This is hands-on learning at its best,” said Marjorie Poss, Y Club advisor and Dawson County High School counselor. “It’s important for kids to see that they have a voice in the government. They definitely learn more about government by doing it.”
The student-ran government created a learning experience about the process of lawmaking and governance.
While learning about the legislative branch, students drafted and debated bills and lobbied for their own legislation.
While serving in the judicial branch, students debated cases in front of real lawyers and a student justice.
Then, while serving in the executive branch, students adopted elected positions such as governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the house and carried out each position’s duties.
“These programs are among the most successful Youth-In-Government programs in the nation,” said Gerald Wade, a representative of the State YMCA of Georgia.
Dawson County High School Y Club was awarded a $1,485 grant from The Sawnee EMC Foundation in early November, which covered the costs for the club’s youth governor to attend the trip. The rest of the money was divided into $100 scholarships for 13 other students attending the Youth Assembly.
Brad Folsom, an attorney from Valdosta, served as the student legislature’s speaker of the house.
“Youth Assembly was the single most important extra-curricular experience for me during my school years. It solidified for me the clear notion that public service and community involvement should be an integral part of my adult life,” said Folsom.
Dawson County High School formed the largest delegation at the conference, with 38 students attending the event. A few local high school students even took home awards.
Dawson County High School junior Kristen White and senior Emily Buice each won a best lobbyist award.
Blake Shively, a senior, won for best male debater in the Senate.
Seniors Andrew King and David Scully won best bills awards. The duo proposed a four-day school week in order to conserve energy.
“We are very proud of how well everyone did,” said Poss.