Students at the the capitol building. Photo by Ericka Oropeza
Students of the Youth and Government Program inside the capitol building. Photo by Ericka Oropeza
Students of the Youth and Government Program inside the the capitol building. Photo by Ericka Oropeza

Last month I traveled to Sacramento, Calif. with a group of high school students from East Los Angeles and Boyle Heights as part of the Youth and Government program at the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA.

The program allows students to experience the model government process at local, state, national and international levels.

During the program, youth senators and representatives met in the legislative chambers of the state Capitol to debate bills written by the students.

I was in a section called State Constitutional Convention, also known as Con-Con. The debates sometimes got personal and intense but overall went really well. The long lectures were not boring, but kept me interested and excited.

I learned a lot about how the government functions. The trip taught me that to be a great leader you must also be a great servant. Being in the Youth and Government program has also taught me how to stand up, and not be afraid to speak up. It gave me a new perspective and respect for all people. I learned to appreciate diversity, not only of skin color, but of backgrounds, opinions and beliefs.

On the last day we had the Governor’s banquet. Our program’s 65th youth governor, the Honorable Spencer Perry, attended the banquet and gave his last speech. At the banquet we were voting for a new youth governor for the program, which turned out to be the Honorable Sam Leichenger.

The day before we left my delegation had a final friendship session, where we shared stories, emotions and said our goodbyes. That night everyone cried and I felt so proud about being a part of something that is so great.

I feel lucky to have been a part of such a group and to have been accepted to go on this trip. I am thankful to my fellow Con Con members who supported me, and am honored to have served with them. My delegation became like a family to me, and I am grateful for all their support.

I am also thankful to every friend I made in this program. They have changed my view on politics and have altered my course of life. They altered my views on what I want to study when I go to college and have encouraged me to apply to different internships and programs that I hadn’t thought about before. I never thought that I would be interested in politics until I entered the program.

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