WNY middle schoolers take over in Albany

Middle Schoolers Present Bills In Albany

In a day and age when politics might not be the most highly regarded profession, twelve Cleveland Hill middle school students bring us fresh perspective on the process. 

As part of the YMCA Youth and Government program, the students picked issues that mattered to them, drafted bills and then headed to Albany last week to meet other students from across the state. 

"We got to learn a lot of the history of the building and then just learn how bills get passed and how tough it must be to have your idea become a law," Ben Tobin, one student, said. 

On Friday, they actually took over the floor of the assembly and presented their bills to each other. 

They said, initially, it was scary. Some wanted to come home after their practice round. 

"We thought it would be easier than it was to like improvise and stuff," Haley Barnes, another student, explained. 

But they stuck it out. Perseverance became a prevalent lesson during the trip. 

Cleveland Hill brought four bills forward. The first was to teach drivers how to drive in hazardous weather. The second was to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous People's Day. The third was to mandate that minors in foster care receive counseling. And the fourth was to make Election Day a state holiday. 

"I was kind of nervous at first but then as I started speaking, it just started to flow through me," Nathaniel Godzala, a student, said.

It was a breakthrough evident in all the kids as they talked about how their nerves settled down and they did what they came to do in Albany. 

Of the four bills presented from Cleve Hill, one passed by their peers: the act to change the name of Columbus Day. 

But group leaders said the success of this experience was so much more than getting enough votes to pass a bill. 

"It's just a great feeling knowing that you could have the power to change your state and then possibly your country one day," Ben Tobin said. 

From here, the bills that passed through the Youth and Government program go onto the Senate and theoretically can pass into law. 

This was the first year that Cleveland Hill has offered this program to its students. 

It was just for the middle schoolers this year but they hope to bring it back and include high school in the future. 

 


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