April 11, 2015

Youth and Government 2015

About seven years ago, our assistant principal Mr. Gadecki asked me to consider becoming the advisor for our New Hampshire Youth and Government advisor.  "I know you're already busy" he said but I said yes right away.  Luckily for me someone else had said no as Youth and Government is one of my favorite things at Trinity High School.

Youth and Government is a national program run by the YMCA in almost 40 states and is a mock government program for high school students.  This is the 67th year that Youth and Government has been held in New Hampshire and Trinity has had a chapter for over 10 years.  Our founding campus minister, Fr. Andrew Nelson, started our chapter as he participated when he was a student at Kennett High School and I succeeded him when he left us to enter the seminary.  

What's so amazing about the New Hampshire program is that we get complete and unfettered access to the New Hampshire State House.  The kids use the actual legislative chambers, the governor's office suite, the Legislative Office Building, the Supreme Court, etc.  I don't think many state programs have this privilege so we are so very fortunate.

The Trinity delegation
The first day of the three day program was actually last month on a Saturday.  It's more of an organizational day and the students elect the governor, speaker, Senate president, etc.  The two main days were yesterday and today.  We gathered here yesterday at 10am and began with a wonderful talk by Gov. Maggie Hassan.  Gov. Hassan spoke of the uniqueness of New Hampshire democracy and how the state does it better than anyone else.  She also urged the students to stay in New Hampshire and to build careers and families here.  This is certainly a major problem as the median age of a New Hampshire resident is 41.1 with an average of 2.46 people in a household.  Schools (public and private) are especially seeing the impact of an aging and declining population as school enrollment across the state is falling.  Many of my counterparts here are from the North Country and some of their schools have only a couple of hundred kids (including one which is a K-12 school).

We ran into Gov. Hassan on Friday evening as she was leaving
After the governor's speech, the House and Senate broke off into committees where they debated bills that students had written.  The bills ranged from establishing casinos, to requiring seatbelts on school buses, to taking the penny out of circulation.  This was followed by lunch and then deliberations in the full House and Senate, more committee hearings, dinner, and more deliberations.  We ended the day at 8:30pm.  We were back here in Concord at 9am and spent time in the houses and then with some final committee work.  The students are now spending the final 2 hours or so in the full House and Senate and wrapping up debate.  At the end of the session, the governor will announce which bills he signed and we will have closing ceremonies.  I caught wind that Hishi Pradhan '15 is receiving the Gene Clark Committee Chair award which is fantastic.  

I really love this program and the way it inspires students to get involved in government and politics.  New Hampshire does indeed so democracy well and there are so many opportunities for New Hampshire residents to play a role in public policy.  I am always rather sad on the final day as I love just being here at the State House and having the chance to see our students in action and to chat with my public school counterparts.  This program is such a perfect example of the New Hampshire way of doing things.
I was also thinking - this is third time I have been to the State House in the past month and have heard talks from the governor and the house speaker while sitting in the House of Representatives chambers.  The other day I was driving to work and I was behind the Senate President.  Where else but New Hampshire?

The Concord Monitor did an article on the program which you can read here.

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