MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Students from all across Alabama took to the State House on Friday as a part of YMCA's Youth Legislature Program.
The program gives high school students the chance to learn about the government and take an active role in the democratic process. It gives participants a hands-on experience of how Alabama's government works by allowing them to step into the shoes of the governor, legislators and others.
Claudia Hubbard, a senior at St. James, is Alabama Youth in Government's Governor for 2017-2018. She said she got involved with the program as a freshman in high school.
"I never would've imagined it. My first year, I was terrified to stand up and speak and even present my bill. I never thought in a million years that I'd be standing on the stage as youth governor and serving this program," Hubbard said.
Hubbard said that the program allowed her to find her passion in life.
"Since I've been involved in youth and government I've really been able to find my voice and realize that I have a passion for service and the people around me," Hubbard said.
A passion she hopes to one day turn into a law degree.
"I hope to go to law school once I graduate from Auburn," Hubbard said.
Standing next to her was Addison Smith, a senior at St. Paul's Episcopal School in Mobile. He is the Deputy Chief of Staff of Alabama Youth in Government for 2017-2018. He said being a part of the program has played a "crucial role" in his high school career.
"I'm trying to savor every last moment," Smith said. "It has brought me out of my shell and it's made all of us feel more comfortable speaking in front of crowds and helping other individuals seek the same thing," Smith said.
Like Hubbard, he too found his calling by participating in the program.
"It actually has inspired me to seek a role in public service when I graduate college. I seek to study international business and Spanish and then the end goal is to be a corporate attorney and then after I retire, I have hopes of going into politics," Smith said.
Alabama Sen. Doug Jones spoke with the participants at their luncheon.
Jones encouraged them to "begin now."
"Rewrite the history of your generation in Alabama. Do not wait on someone else to do it," Jones said. "It is never too early to get involved."
The program will conclude on Sunday, March 25.