By Cal Martin, a Junior at Dayton High School in Dayton, WA. Cal is involved with YMCA Youth Legislature, a program founded in 1947 which provides opportunities for teens to find their voice on issues facing society today, empowering them to address concerns in their communities and practice tolerance, understanding, and leadership.
School’s Out Washington partners with this program and is exploring how to further engage around youth and government. Cal provides his perspective on why getting involved in the legislative process matters and the importance of youth voice.
My name is Cal Martin and I’ve been involved in Youth and Government for four years. I have seen how important this program has been to me and my peers who are involved.
Nowadays, youth are often hesitant to get out of their comfort zones, mostly intimidated by individuals other than their friends and family. However, giving their opinion is one thing that most people are comfortable with. This exchange of ideas is simple government and civics. Not necessarily relations between the government and big corporations, but the small ideas such as “I think there should be a law that makes traffic lights correspond with the colors of our flag.”
Even these little ideas that pop up in our minds are important because all it takes is one idea in one person’s head and after a couple of years it could become a law. As American citizens we must continue to come up with new and better ideas to make the country better. This is why it is important to have civic involvement, without these little ideas to give birth to bigger and better laws our country will become stagnant, and will be stuck in the world we are in today. Youth and Government teaches high school students to have ideas and follow their ideas through the Legislative process.
Civic involvement is key for a better future, as the world changes around us new problems arise, and new things need to be changed. For example, I introduced a bill into Youth Legislature to change an old law that restricted the freedom of farmers in Eastern Washington. Though my experience in this program I have learned that laws don’t just sit in a dusty old book, but rather can be changed when any citizen has an idea.
This is why I believe the importance of Youth in Government is greater than most people think. This program teaches youth about the structure of the government, and how it works. Most important of all, these are the people who are going to be coming up with solutions to our nation’s problems in a few short years, and through this program we are learning how to turn these solutions into reality.
Youth in Government is a sound investment converting us into a generation of thinkers and problem solvers, and one in which can turn our nation into a better, more successful one.