“Join for the debate, stay for the people.” On Friday, February 20, for the second year in a row, Wisconsin Youth in Government (YIG) Governor Acaya Link opened his State of the State address with this simple, yet powerful phrase.
In the assembly chambers of the state capitol building in Madison, middle and high schoolers from all over the state of Wisconsin listened intently as state representative Dale Kooyenga, state Supreme Court justice David Prosser Jr, and finally, the youth Governor spoke. As Link wrapped up the last few words of his speech, the crowd started to pack up to head to their assemblies and get the three day weekend started.
YIG is a unique program that allows students from all walks of life to become faux members of the legislative, judicial, and executive government branches or the press corps. Members of the legislative branch can participate in a lax Red Assembly, more professional Blue Assembly, or even the Senate for consummate delegates. Similarly, the judicial branch has positions of leadership like the Supreme Court for their best and the press corps gives students a bevy of career options for the weekend.
However, students agree that no matter where they are in the program, YIG has done wonders in giving them a voice.
Said Speaker of the Red Assembly, which is equivalent to the Speaker of the House in the US Congress, Nora Ptacek, “Youth in Government [is] an essential part of my life. It fosters [an] environment in which delegates grow as people [by honing] speaking and debating skills, communication skills, or social skills. I can never overstate how important YIG is to me, it allowed me to find my voice and grow into the independent young woman I am today.
Run by the YMCA, it lives up to the YMCA’s mission of offering “programs that help healthy spirit, mind and body for all.”
Model government fosters a healthy mind through the highly intellectual debate and research that goes into writing up a bill or a court brief. It provides healthy spirit through the support given by the loving atmosphere made possible by the people involved.
As Link stated, “I have never had the honor of being associated with a more welcoming and respectful group of people.”
Ptacek continued, “This program is unlike any other I’ve known… everyone in the program wants to hear what each other has to say, voices are not suppressed and opinions are appreciated.”
According to Link, “I joined YIG because my family and I were looking for extra curricular activities to put down on future college applications but what we found surprised us. YIG became so much more for me, it became the source of my friends and the outlet for my ideas.”
When asked if he could describe YIG in one word, Link said, “Life-changing.”
He explained, “When I first joined YIG I was timid. Now, I… am a confident speaker and better versed in the workings of government. [YIG]… allowed me to find my voice and for that I am forever grateful.”