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GVCS Students "Practice Democracy" at State Youth and Government Conference

Youth and GovernmentThree students at Genesee Valley Central School engaged in a hands-on lesson in civic engagement at the annual New York State Youth And Government (YAG) Conference in March. Sophomores Sophia Gugino and Lealah Greene joined junior Nathan Slawson at the virtual conference.

Sponsored by the YMCA, the YAG conference is a 3-day experiential learning program in which students serve as part of a model state government, taking over the chambers of the New York State Senate and Assembly to debate bills they and their peers have written.

Slawson and Gugino worked together to introduce a bill that would mandate college professors and educators pass a training course on sexual violence. Their bill passed through the chambers but was not ultimately signed into law.

The virtual format of the conference presented students with some new opportunities—and some new challenges. “Because of the virtual platform,” said Gugino, “it is so much more important to be attentive and actively listening.”

Slawson, a four-year veteran of YAG conferences, earned a second consecutive trip to the national conference this summer where he will seek to revise his proposal from last year and advance further in the conference.”

Greene worked with students from other school districts (Saratoga Springs and Long Island) on a bill that would create a tax credit for restaurant owners that donated to food banks or other emergency food programs. The trio’s efforts paid off in the end as their bill was eventually signed into law. “I enjoyed the fact that we could collaborate with people from all over New York,” commented Greene, "unlike previous years when we stayed only within our district.”

For these students, Youth And Government has played a critical role in their personal and academic development. “YAG has taught me that when you are truly passionate about a topic, you must follow through,” said Gugino. “My work ethic and dedication have improved since joining this program.”

“Every year I walk away from the conference with renewed faith in my generation and I become more passionate for the things that I believe in,” concluded Greene.

Genesee Valley’s YAG Advisor, Donna Slawson, sees the state and national conferences as invaluable opportunities for students: “This is real-life STEAM learning in action! Our students did amazing practicing their debate, research, and problem-solving skills while learning all about the ins and outs of how our government works.”