The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

October 23, 2013

Youth in Government helps create leaders

Scholarships available to students to cover some costs

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That, she says, is where some of the magic happened.

"Everyone there is passionate and educated about the issues," she said. "It’s so great to have an educational, intellectual conversation with someone, even if they don't agree with you. That makes you more informed, and it's very interesting to hear from people with different opinions and from different backgrounds."

Miller said it's great when a student starts young. As an eighth-grader, he said, they can get involved in legislation. In ninth grade, maybe they can try the Supreme Court. And so on. By the time they're upper classmen, whatever their first choice is (students can request a certain "profession" but aren't guaranteed to get it), is usually where they end up.

By the time the weekend arrives and the preparation is done — learning how you talk in a committee and how do you ask questions, what the parliamentary rules are, how to give testimony, how to present a case — Miller says the thing sort of runs itself.

"It's organized chaos," Miller said. "Adult advisers are just supervising. We're there in case situations come up."

Youth in Government actually originates with the YMCA and has been around for decades. Cheryl Hamond of the Mankato YMCA says the program fits with the Y's mission on many different levels.

"We're teaching young people how to be leaders," Hamond said, "teaching them about the government process."

One thing the YMCA does not do, Hamond said, is push any kind of political agenda. The Y and the advisers are simply there to direct the kids.

"The conclusions they reach are all up to them," Hamond said.

Another aspect that makes the program in Minnesota unique is the fact that the kids actually get to use the state's Capitol building.

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