Students Take Over State Capital in Lansing

Thirty-seven Avondale Middle School students participated in the YMCA Youth in Government conference November 13-15 at the Capitol in Lansing. Youth in Government is an experience designed to engage middle school students in becoming thoughtful and active citizens versed in the principles of a democratic society. The annual conference is attended by hundreds of students across the State of Michigan. During the conference, students campaign for government leadership positions including Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House; they conduct legislative sessions at the House and Senate Chambers in the State Capitol; they present legislative bills relative to current state-wide issues that they wrote prior to attending the conference; and they vote on the merit of the bills presented, sending some on to the Youth Governor for consideration and signing.

Avondale Middle School Delegation at the 2016 Youth in Government Conference in Lansing

Avondale Middle School Delegation at the 2016 Youth in Government Conference in Lansing

In preparation for the conference, Avondale Middle School teacher Maria Kopicki taught the middle-schoolers parliamentary procedure as well as how to write a bill and the process for submitting and presenting bills for consideration. The students researched current state-wide issues, decided an approach to enact change to those issues and then drafted bills that would compel that change. In all, the Avondale students authored 21 bills to take to the conference for presentation during the mock legislative session.

During this year’s Youth in Government Conference, 18 bills from various student delegations were sent to the Youth Governor to sign – she signed only 11 bills including 9 written by Avondale students. “Avondale students had an amazing showing this year having written 9 of the 11 bills signed by the Youth Governor,” said Kopicki. “The students far exceeded my expectations – they ROCKED the Senate and the House,” she added.

Avondale Middle School students who authored successful bills were Emily Beckas, Vivek Chanduri, Smilee Chunduru, Breanna Daniel, JaMya Dennis, Caroline Gratsch, Madison Grenier, Ava Hall, Ben Hall, Anjika Jain, Nathan Lavoie, Cadence Nowakowski, Elaina Rankin, and Ajay Sumanth.

In addition to the success of the students getting their bills passed, four students were elected by their peers from all delegations combined to assume leadership roles during the conference. Avondale Middle School eighth-grader Elena Toomajian won election as the Red Speaker of the House; sixth-grader Fiona Lipski was elected as Speaker of the Blue House; eighth-grader Ajay Sumanth won the seat as Lieutenant Governor for the Red Senate and eighth-grader Emily Beckas won the spot as Lieutenant Governor for the Blue Senate.

Other students who earned honors during the conference were Elaina Rankin and Rebecca Hartrick, each named The Best Legislature in the Senate; Chirag Bhat, Luis Hernandez, Anjika Jain, Justice Palmer, and Abhijai Singh, named Committee Chairs; Kendall Byas and Alivia Schwerin, named House Clerks; Ava Hall named Committee Clerk; Rebecca Hartrick named Secretary of the Senate; and Catherine Cabot named Inspirational Leader. Catherine gave the closing speech at the end of the conference, quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. and using Kopicki’s motto #itsallabouttheLOVE as she spoke about promoting world peace.


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