Sewickley area students get glimpse of state government
When Andrew House joined the Youth and Government Club at the Sewickley Valley YMCA, he said, he didn't know all that much about politics.
Some friends had recruited him to join, but he thought it would just be a bunch of teens sitting around on folding chairs listening to adults talk.
He said he couldn't have been more wrong.
House, 18, a Quaker Valley High School senior, has been involved in the club for three years and said it's all about youth participation.
“We actually get to write a bill and go to the state capitol and debate the issues,” he said.
The bill he wrote, which involves voters being able to register at thye polls, was one of 26 chosen by the youth governor at the Youth and Government annual Model Government Convention held in Harrisburg last month, which drew about 40 clubs from all over the state.
Bills chosen by the youth governor are given to representatives of the state House and Senate for consideration to include in an actual bill.
House's idea is to allow voter registration at the polls in Pennsylvania on the day of the election.
“Nebraska and Michigan do it, and they have the highest voter turnout in the nation,” he said.
House served as the youth Senate majority leader and presented his bill in the Senate committee with the youth governor's support. It then went to the youth Senate and House, where it also passed. Courtney Kroner, also a Quaker Valley senior, was house clerk, House's secondary sponsor who got the bill passed.
Dennis Pauley, who is an adviser for the group, along with Chad Wissinger said House's bill was the first the local club has had passed and signed since 2005.
The club, which meets from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays, September through April, also celebrated another success at the convention. The State YMCA of Pennsylvania, recognized Pauley with the Larry Bock Advisor of the Year Award, given for hard work and long-term commitment, the same honor given to Wissinger in 2010.
Pauley and Wissinger have run the club for 13 years. Pauley leads the group by watching over meetings, answering students' questions and coordinating the trips. In addition to the Harrisburg trip, students also participated in two one-day events just for western Pennsylvania clubs to elect representatives, discuss bills and prepare for the state meeting in Harrisburg.
Wissinger, a lawyer, provides help for the members who are involved in the judicial branch of the program. Danielle Burnette also volunteers with the club. A Quaker Valley School Board member and a lawyer, she worked with the club's lawyer team.
Ten Quaker Valley students attended the convention. They first wrote bills to bring with them to Harrisburg.
Mericka McCabe, 18, also a Quaker Valley senior and president of the club, explained that students participating in the convention can be involved in the legislative, executive or judicial branch of the Pennsylvania State Youth and Government or act as lobbyist or press corps members.
Those in legislative branch write bills and spend the weekend in committee and then in the House or Senate to pass or reject bills.
Executive-branch members work with the youth governor to speak on bills that he or she wants to pass.
Lobbyists represent different organizations and give the organizations' opinions about the bills.
Press corps members produce a newspaper every day with articles about the program, along with opinion polls and interviews.
McCabe served as secretary of education and youth; Katie Manuel was senate secretary; and Jonathan Pijar served as a justice on the youth Supreme Court.
The bills cover a wide range of topics, with committees for each subject.
“This year, there were a lot about changing the Pennsylvania budget to support higher education,” McCabe said.
Those who would like to join for the upcoming school year, when the club will be extended to middle school students, as well, can contact Burnette at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or email@example.com.