Sixty-four upper school students participated in Ohio Youth in Government, culminating in a two-day event at the Ohio Statehouse in which they wrote and introduced legislation on the house floor. According to the organization, Youth in Government promotes an atmosphere for lively and respectful debates on a variety of issues impacting Ohio. The program provides high schoolers with the opportunity to explore the many aspects of state government. Elected to take on the roles of legislators, students gain a firsthand knowledge of their real world counterparts. Sophomore Ali Winter was elected to Speaker of the House for next year and Wellington had numerous students committed for next year to be committee chairs and other leadership positions.
Below students share their perspective on the experience.
Mac Hammett ‘19
This year was my first year going to OYG. I was part of the Representatives within mock Ohio Legislature. So, I sat in the House of Representatives with my partner, Jack Haney ‘19 and voted over bills that passed a smaller committee of people and went to the floor. (Committees are smaller groups of people from the House of Representatives or Senate that vote on bills the first time they are read to decide if they are worthy of moving to the next stage. Almost everyone is part of a committee.)
I wrote a bill that would “put Ohio on the forefront of veteran affairs.” My bill would begin a pilot program to study the true effectiveness of service dogs with veterans who suffer from a mental or physical illness. Service dogs are already given to veterans; however, this bill would offer a state funded program to study the improvements of the veterans with a service dog. There is already a bill pending in Federal Legislation with the idea to do this exact program. My partner and I read the portion of the Ohio code concerning veterans, read the bill written by Representative Stivers, and created a bill that would offer this pilot program in Ohio by adapting the language written by Representative Stivers. The bill passed committee, the House, and the Governor signed it. Meaning it would be current law in a real government!
When I finally delivered my rebuttal to the bill, I felt like I belonged in the House of Representatives.”
My favorite part was discussing, debating, and voting on bills in the House. There was a bill proposed that would have made lethal injection the only legal way to slaughter an animal for meat in Ohio. Being a farmer, I knew this bill would jeopardize the safety of the meat going to market, cost Ohio farmers millions of dollars, and raise the price of meat in grocery stores. So, during the dinner before that bill was read, I created a three page speech on why this bill was an awful idea. I used the rhetoric skills I learned from Mr. Eberly’s Speech class to formulate my argument and practiced my presentation in front of my classmates at dinner. When I finally delivered my rebuttal to the bill, I felt like I belonged in the House of Representatives. The feeling of using nothing but personal knowledge to create an argument against an idea you firmly disagree against and executing the presentation well is beyond satisfaction. I will never forget that moment.
I will for sure go to the OYG next year. I have enjoyed it so much and I can’t wait to go again. My biggest take away will be to listen to other opinions, reflect on my own biases, and used true data or knowledge to form an argument before standing for a side. Really understand an issue before you support it. Also, I am already good at this, but speaking in front of lots of people is easily a great take away from the program.
Sara Abdelbaki ‘18
This year at Ohio Youth in Government, I was actually a part of the Governor’s Cabinet taking the position as Secretary of Health and Human Resources. I specifically chose this position on the cabinet because I wanted to be responsible for lobbying for some of the more controversial bills on behalf of the student governor.
As a part of the cabinet I did not get to write a bill, but in 10th grade, I wrote a bill requiring high schoolers to take a life skills course before graduation and in 11th grade, I drafted a bill proposing the removal of the death penalty from our criminal justice system.
It was also so amazing to step back and see how big of an impact Wellington has on this program.”
This year, my favorite part of being a member of this program was getting to listen to so many bills after passing the committee level and the Senate/House floors. It was also so amazing to step back and see how big of an impact Wellington has on this program. I loved seeing how enthusiastic, passionate, and engaged some of the first-time Wellington members were.
The first year I became involved with Ohio Youth and Government was during my freshman year as a journalist, working behind the scenes capturing different moments and documenting the important events of the trip. But while I was there, I realized that journalism – what I thought I’d be doing later on in life – was not exactly right for me. I came back as a bill author the following year, and realized that this is what I wanted to be studying in college next year and for the rest of my life. The Ohio Youth and Government program has really helped guide me in this way.
Ali Winter ‘20
I was a representative in the House of Representatives. I was also a committee chair and ran for Speaker of the House (and won!).
I helped write a bill that removed language from the Ohio Revised Code that required Sex-Ed teachers to tell their students that, “having children outside of wedlock is likely to have harmful consequences for the child, the child’s parents, and society.” Unfortunately my bill did not pass committee.
I loved getting the opportunity to express my opinion on a variety of issues. I also loved hearing the opinions of others, and being able to respectfully disagree.
Actually experiencing how bills are passed, instead of just learning about it, was an amazing experience that taught me a lot.”
This experience has helped me improve my public speaking abilities and I am now more confident expressing my opinion in public. I also loved learning more about the legislative process, especially because I am interested in law. Actually experiencing how bills are passed, instead of just learning about it, was an amazing experience that taught me a lot.
Audrey Unverferth ‘18
I participated in OYG during all four years of high school. I have loved participating in the club, and I always look forward to our yearly trips downtown, to the Ohio Statehouse. This year, I was a representative in the Senate. Eric Jacques ‘18 and I wrote a bill together, in defense of Ohio’s historical monuments.The goal of our bill was not necessarily to defend the ideals of Ohio’s historical monuments; instead, our bill created a clearly defined process for legally removing monuments from the state of Ohio. If Ohioans democratically decide that it’s within their best interest to lawfully remove monuments to their past, then that is their choice. But, the process should be clearly defined and it should prevent single individuals from erasing the past on a whim and without democratic consent. In short, our bill reaffirmed the rule of law – and it tried to protect American history in the process. Unfortunately, our bill did not pass its hearing in the Senate Committee.
Regardless of what I do in the future, OYG has given me invaluable practice public speaking. It has enabled me to better understand Ohio’s legal system, and it has also given me the confidence to challenge other’s arguments, in debate in front of a crowd.”
My favorite part of OYG was debating on the Senate floor. This was hands down one of my best experiences with public debate – ever. The Senate was filled with strong individuals on all sides of the political spectrum, and I really liked that my fellow “Senators” weren’t afraid to have difficult conversations. Regardless of what I do in the future, OYG has given me invaluable practice public speaking. It has enabled me to better understand Ohio’s legal system, and it has also given me the confidence to challenge other’s arguments, in debate in front of a crowd. I’ve really loved being a part of the club!