LIMESTONE—It has become a tradition for Dan Melega’s YMCA Youth In Government club to head to Augusta every November.
This year, 16 students from Maine School of Science and Mathematics took part in the State YMCA Youth In Government from Nov. 14 to 16. The program allows high school students in Maine to participate in a mock legislative session at the Maine State House and to learn a little bit more about how government works.
“This is a great opportunity for any high school student to learn more about the legislative process, including introducing a new bill, having the bill assigned to the committee, and more,” Melega said. “I’ve taken my students to Augusta every year since I’ve started.”
What makes the YMCA Youth In Government program so special is that all of the bills are drafted by students. The program is entirely student-driven, including having their own peers elected to serve in leadership positions during State House weekend.
“It really gives the students a good idea about how everything works. They get passionate about it,” Melega said. “I require my students to write a bill in order to go because it gives them something to become invested in and follow.”
The highlight of the trip this year included Sam Kupiec’s bill being recognized as “Best Bill.” Kupiec’s bill proposed adding a five cent deposit on all cigarette butts. Kupiec hoped that his bill would inspire high school students to quit smoking.
“Change has to begin somewhere and I am hoping that introducing this idea to high school students will get the ball rolling,” Kupiec said. “I had no idea that it would be recognized as ‘Best Bill.’ It was really an honor to be highlighted by my fellow peers, let alone actually receiving the award.”
In addition, five MSSM students were elected to CONA, or the YMCA Conference on National Affairs. They include senior Judy Yau, junior Elizaveta Maslak, senior Jason Webb, junior Jessie Willinghan and senior Kupiec. All of them have the opportunity to represent Maine at the national conference in Black Mountain, N.C., from June 27 through July 2.
For more information about the YMCA Youth In Government program including a listing of all the bills that were passed into law by the students, go to www.yiginme.org.