By CHAZ PLAGER
After a four-year hiatus because of COVID shutdowns, the Pacific Palisades Charter High School Youth in Government (Y&G) program is back, and so was the annual three-day trip to Sacramento.
Statewide, more than 2,000 students in the Y&G program arrived bright and early on February 10 for the final meeting of the program.
This meeting, which was held in California Assembly and Senate Chambers in the State Capital, was a culmination of everything students had learned so far this year and also served as a send-off to those who will graduate.
After a short flight, 110 Palisades students went directly to the Capital, where they received lectures on how the California legislature works and how bills are passed.
“We got to sit in desks and chairs that were made in the 1800s,” said PaliHi junior George Willis. “It was pretty cool, actually.”
Prior to going to Sacramento, students had gathered into groups and created mock policy proposals and bills.
Once they were in the state chambers, students presented the bills and then had to answer questions, defend the bills and make revisions. Eventually, students voted on the bills.
The students worked in groups and were encouraged, for practice, to try passing a bill they may not have believed in personally.
Willis proposed a bill on new anti-homeless measures, and PaliHi’s Max Schwartz proposed one for Californian single-payer healthcare.
“I think I gained a lot of insight into the workings of the government, and I was enlightened as to how youth can effect change in our state,” said Schwartz, who is a junior. “I’ll definitely be going again next year.”
Youth in Government, which has been sponsored since 1948 by the YMCA, strives to educate students about the role government plays in people’s lives, as well as how the government works and gives students a chance to see what it would be like to be in the legislature.
Palisades Y&G Director Jalen Lacy said “Sacramento was our final conference of the year, and in many ways, a culmination of all the work delegates have done during Y&G meetings.
“During the trip I learned about the undying nature of teenage intellectual passions,” Lacy said. “All delegates, even the ones completely new to the program, found pockets of time within the structure of the conference to make sure that their opinions and voices were heard.
“That was the most inspiring experience for me, witnessing the collective exhibition of young spirit and fire,” Lacy said.
During the fall semester, students can sign up for the program on the YMCA website. Entry to the program is $1,475, paid in multiple installments throughout the year. Students may also receive financial aid if their family qualifies.
YMCA Director Kirtley said that some students receive full scholarships and others receive partial aid.
“We try to make this program available to any student who wants to participate,” Kirtley said, noting that the program is designed teach civic knowledge, civic awareness and civic action.