MONTGOMERY, AL - By Ellie Cotton
Three hundred and fifty youth from throughout Alabama are in Montgomery to participate in the 67th Annual Alabama YMCA Youth Legislature this weekend. Delegations from 21 schools are represented at the conference.
Youth Legislature is a part of the Alabama YMCA Youth in Government program, which gives youth the opportunity to be actively involved in government while they are still in high school. Students are able to learn more about their state and plan to contribute to its development in the future.
The youth assume all the roles of the legislative and other branches of government. This includes the House of Representatives and its officers, the Senate and its officers, the Supreme Court and the governor's office and cabinet. The youth delegates write their own legislation and present the bills in front of their chamber, debates ensue and ultimately 2015 Youth Governor Cassie Sadie of Saint James School in Montgomery, may even sign their legislation into law.
"Since its first session in 1949, the Alabama YMCA Youth Legislature has met annually, serving approximately 400 students in each of its sessions," said Alabama Youth in Government Director Sam Adams of the Montgomery YMCA. "It is procedurally designed as a replica of the Alabama Legislature."
Some of the bills being debated in Youth Legislature's this session would add blood types to driver licenses and non-driver identification cards, protect jobs of women on maternity leave and prohibit smoking in a vehicle with a child 13 or younger.
The youth also act as lobbyists and members of the news media. While they may not be in front speaking or debating a bill, they play an important role in the conference. The lobbyists campaign for delegates to vote for or against bills. The news media members serve as the eyes and ears of the conference, giving students documentation of everything this weekend has to offer. The media also controls several media outlets such as a Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and blog.
"This program is so beneficial, because we are the future of this state and nation, and we will eventually be the ones in charge," said Youth Gov. Sadie. "This program means so much to everyone, because we have the opportunity to act as if we are the actual officials."
Youth Gov. Sadie, 18, is the daughter of Mark and Ashley Sadie. She plans to attend Auburn University in the fall of 2015.
Youth Legislature meets Friday through Sunday at the Alabama State House.
Ellie Cotton, a senior at Pike Liberal Arts School in Troy, is serving as editor of the Youth Legislature's newspaper, blog, and social media outlets.