The Student News Site of Westfield High School

Hi's Eye

The Student News Site of Westfield High School

Hi's Eye

The Student News Site of Westfield High School

Hi's Eye

WHS students participate in successful Youth and Government conference

Photo courtesy of David Della Fera
WHS juniors (from left to right) Zoe Urbano, Emily Kapuscinski and Olivia Lawrence at the YAG conference

How can the government protect New Jersey coastal regions? Should the Second Amendment be challenged to protect the community? How should health education be rolled out in schools? These were some of the questions facing 34 WHS students as they participated in the 80th annual Youth and Government Conference in East Brunswick, NJ two weeks ago.

During the three-day conference held in the Hilton East Brunswick, 350 students from across the state simulated a state government, taking on various government positions as legislators, lobbyists, judiciaries and journalists. Before the conference formally began, students crafted their own mock legislation on issues important to them. Students were then divided into groups for the conference and the legislation was presented and debated.

Preparing for and participating in these debates allowed students to polish their public speaking skills and fight for what they believe in. According to WHS YAG Adviser and English Teacher David Della Fera, “[Students] have to be very accurate and articulate not only in their debating, but also in their preparation of their bills. It’s a great way to sharpen their skills if they want to go into a career in law or public service.”

WHS senior and delegation coordinator Grace Kim noted that the debates were an integral part of the experience.

“My favorite part of YAG is being able to express my own opinions and thoughts on controversial topics. Debating during the conference is all about spontaneously curating your position on someone’s bill and arguing for or against it,” she explained.

While there is overlap between students who participated in Model United Nations and YAG, the individualized focus of YAG makes the conference its own unique experience.

Della Fera said, “In MUN, you are given a country that you have to represent and so you’re often playing devil’s advocate, whereas in YAG, you are allowed to debate and write a bill that is both very personal to you and something you think should become state law.” In this way, students who already participated in MUN in January were still able to have a special and empowering experience.

Despite accounting for less than 10 percent of the conference, WHS students achieved numerous accolades. According to Della Fera, WHS students Julissa Mijaleski, Gabriela Castillo and Hannah Lee successfully passed bills. Ella Sumas and Chloe Spats won Outstanding Legislation awards. Jacob Kofsky won the Outstanding Advocate Award. Tegan Hargerty won the Premier First Year Delegate Award. Castillo, Carson Donnelly and Grace Kim were invited to the Conference on National Affairs for their work this year. Lastly, the WHS delegation was awarded the Outstanding Delegation Award.

With students learning critical speaking, writing and negotiating skills in addition to winning awards and passing mock legislation, this year’s YAG Conference was an impactful and successful experience for the WHS delegation.

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