Seven current Emmanuel students participated in the YMCA College Youth in Government (YIG) National Assembly - held in Washington, D.C., from January 14th-18th - and took home multiple honors, including the 2016 Chapter of the Year award and a position as a national officer for Mary-Kate Roffey '17. It was an impressive showing for any college's chapter at any experience level, but the success was particularly significant for Roffey, Kendyll Martin '18, Eric Cote '18, Marcie Paez '18, Brooke Sylvia '18, Matthew Rotelli '18 and Logan Levesque '18, whose engagement with YIG only began in during the fall 2015 semester. (Former EC student Sarah Mack was part of the College's delegation as well.)
The Youth in Government Movement
Millennials are often characterized as lazy or entitled - labels that don't sit well with many college-aged students. The YMCA College Youth in Government, a student-run, national model government program that engages college students by developing their public service skills, seeks to give the Millennial generation a voice and encourages them to educate their own campuses on how a democracy works .
Emmanuel College's Youth in Government became a registered chapter of the organization in October of 2014, but began working in a more official capacity in the fall of 2015. In November, they invited former Massachusetts State Senator Marian Walsh to campus to speak on "Leadership in the Real World."
"We want to engage more with the Emmanuel community in the next several months," political science major Eric Cote said. "With the elections in this election year, there are a lot of opportunities both for education and discussion around our democratic process."
Despite its root in politics, the YIG group was quick to note that you don't have to be a political science major to participate - students in any academic discipline who have an issue they'd like to shine a light on can benefit. EC YIG President Kendyll Martin is a biology major concentrating in neuroscience, and Brooke Sylvia, who drafted legislation that would require magazines aimed at young audiences to be transparent about photos that have been digitally altered or enhanced, is majoring in developmental psychology.
Martin also said that participation in YIG's annual conference, The National Assembly, helps with public speaking skills, while American Studies major Mary-Kate Roffey said that defending your bills in front of other delegates helps you think on your feet and to consider a wide variety of ideas, some of which may fall outside your own beliefs. Economics major Logan Levesque also notes that there are great opportunities for communication majors at the conference, as there is an option to serve as part of the College YIG News press.
"We really want to get more Emmanuel students involved and take a larger delegation to the National Assembly next year," Martin said.
Want to join Emmanuel College Youth in Government? Follow them on Twitter at @EC_YIG, or e-mail Kendyll Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The National Assembly
The January 2016 College Youth in Government National Assembly (just the fourth annual, for the college division of YIG) is a four-day model government and public service training program at which delegates from colleges across the country serve as Senators, Representatives, Cabinet Secretaries, Supreme Court Justices, and members of the press.
Preparations for the Assembly began in the fall of 2015 for the EC YIG delegates, as they drafted and submitted legislation to the organization's coordinators to be considered in committees at the Assembly.
This year, the Assembly convened delegations of various sizes from 24 colleges and universities across the country, including University of Pennsylvania, Western Kentucky University, Georgetown and George Washington University. While most members of the Emmanuel delegation served as members of the House, Kendyll Martin filled the group's allotted Senate seat.
With his bill on a national interstate transit system, international studies major Matthew Rotelli was invited to serve as the chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. His role was to adhere to the rules and procedures of committee hearings by following the script provided by the Office of the House Parliamentarian. The organization threw in a twist before committee hearings began, informing chairs of a real-time crisis element that had to be taken into account while reviewing bills.
Cote noted that they were lucky enough to hold a session on Friday in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill, one of three buildings used by the United States House of Representatives.
Marcie Paez said that one of the major differences between the real Congress and YIG Congress is that there are no political parties in the chambers.
"It's not about party affiliation, it's just about working together, offering pointers on how legislation can be improved and having our voices heard," she said. "It allows for a great balance."
"We get to express our own beliefs without being worried what's correct or out of line for a certain political party," Levesque added.
Paez and Roffey also had the honor of seeing their bill, an incentives program for public school boards to include student representation in exchange for grant money, be the first passed into law and receive the runner-up spot for Best Legislation.
"The magic in it was that it was incredible simple in the way it was written," Paez said. "There weren't nine pages of political jargon."
For both their preparation before the conference (they were the first YIG chapter to submit their bills for inclusion), the hard work of the club's executive board, and their performance at the Assembly, EC YIG was honored with the 2016 Chapter of the Year Award, besting much larger schools who have more YIG experience. The group noted that more senior delegations were nothing but supportive and happy for them in their success.
Roffey, without telling her fellow EC YIG delegates, applied for a position as one of YIG's 12 national officers, who will serve throughout the 2016-2017 program year and the following year's National Assembly. In her role as Director of Development, Roffey will coordinate chapter development and fundraising across the country as well as assist in the recruitment and growth of new College YIG chapters and delegates.
"I was looking at the bios of the current national officers, and most of them had been involved with Youth in Government since middle school," Roffey said. "I didn't know if I had a chance, but I wanted the opportunity to give back to this program."
"It's a lot of work and an honor," Martin said. "National officers work the entire year to make this conference happen, from making it more efficient and less expensive, as well as promoting the organization as a whole."
The group also got to see some of Washington's sights. Enduring what they called "a painfully early wake up" on Thursday's travel day, Emmanuel students arrived in D.C. - accompanied by Director of Multicultural Programs Jeffrey Smith, whom they called a "true advisor" in every sense of the word - with enough time to split up and see some of the capital's landmarks, including the White House, the Smithsonian, the National Archives, the National Museum of American History and the National Museum of Natural History.
"I was the only one in the group who had never been to Washington, D.C., before," said Paez, a history major who recently interned at the Massachusetts Historical Society. "That was really important for me to experience."
Back on campus, the response they received was positive.
"It's another testament to the community here at Emmanuel," Cote said. "Faculty, staff and other students had been keeping up with how we were doing while we were there, and they were really congratulatory and supportive when we came back on campus."
For next year's conference, EC YIG hopes to work together to draft a bill on campaign finance reform and to continue to research and write bills on issues that are important to them as individuals.
Emmanuel College Youth in Government Proposed Legislation
(all passed through their respective committees and all but one was heard on either the House or the Senate floor)
- Mary-Kate Roffey and Marcie Paez: Proposed an incentives program for public school systems - if they put a student representative on school board, they qualify for grant money. (Heard in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce)
- Eric Cote: Proposed reducing the corporate tax rate to incentivize companies to start in and/or come to the United States to do business. (Heard in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce)
- Brooke Sylvia: Proposed forcing magazines targeted at young audiences to put a disclaimer on any images altered with photo-editing software, letting the readers know that it has been altered. (Heard in the House Committee on the Judiciary)
- Logan Levesque: Proposed a bill requiring producers to label products that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). (Heard in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce)
- Matt Rotelli: Proposed a bill to create a national interstate train system through major cities around the United States. (Heard in the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure)
- Kendyll Martin: Proposed a bill removing the exemption to the 14c Fair Labor Standards act, therefore removing the sub-minimum wage for workers with disabilities. (Heard in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions)