Members of the St. Joseph’s Academy Youth and Government (YAG) Club joined high school students from across the state for the 2020 Louisiana Youth Legislature, held December 4-6. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s conference was virtual, with students participating from their homes.
The annual three-day mock-legislative session is designed to enable students to learn about the legislative process by acting as representatives, senators, Supreme Court justices and press delegates and by writing, debating and presenting bills to their peers.
Participants’ bills were presented and debated in dedicated Zoom rooms. Successful bills were then presented to the full Senate or the full House. “From my perspective, the level of debate was outstanding, and the proposed bills were well thought out and inventive,” said Patrick O’Hara, YAG moderator.
Sophomore Margaret Moe’s bill was selected as the outstanding Senate bill. O’Hara said her presentation was the best he has heard in seven years of moderating the Youth and Government Club.
Moe said that despite the conference being virtual, she thoroughly enjoyed the experience. “Next year, I am looking forward to hopefully being back at the State Capitol for an in-person conference,” she said. “I am also looking forward to bringing another excellent bill to the conference, seeing the debate on it and watching the legislative process at work.”
The club also swept the elections for next year’s state leaders. Junior Olivia Mack was elected governor, junior Ellie Pryor and sophomore Maria Hargrave were elected president of the Senate and speaker of the House, respectively. Juniors Jillian Augustine and Aubrey Turner were elected to state board positions.
Augustine, who is president of the Youth and Government Club, served as secretary of state for this year’s unusual conference. “Among my favorite things about a normal Youth Leg are the friendships made,” she said. “This year, I was worried that the virtual format would eliminate that. Thankfully, I was proven wrong. I never thought I could be so close to so many people from across the state that I have never met in person. Luckily, after a year of hard work, I earned another board position, speaker pro-temp, and I could not be more excited for the remainder of this school year and next year’s hopefully in-person conference.”
Turner said the event exceeded her expectations. “A Zoom conference sounds very unappealing but, in fact, the conference was quite the opposite,” she said. “It was very enjoyable. I got really involved this year through being selected to serve as a committee chair, engaging in debate and being selected to serve as a state board officer in 2021. I’m looking forward to serving along with the other SJA girls on state board.”
O’Hara said SJA’s success this year was the direct result of outstanding organization and leadership from the club officers and the enthusiasm of its members. “We sent a broad range of students to Leg this year, including 10 freshmen,” he said. “But our battle-hardened juniors and seniors selflessly devoted hours to preparing the freshmen for their first conference. It was a tremendous success.”
Mindy Brodhead Averitt