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My YIG Experience

20203+YIG+students+
20203 YIG students

This past November, GMC students went to the 2023 South Carolina YMCA Youth in Government conference in Columbia. I was fortunate enough to be among those few. 

My YIG experience really started about a month before the actual conference date. Most of the preparation time went to brainstorming, drafting, revising, and re-revising a bill that I hoped to present in front of hundreds of my peers. I did this tedious process side-my-side with my bill partner and favorite person, Skye Leitch, 11. 

We knew we needed a strong bill if we wanted to pass through all chambers of Congress, but we also needed a bill we were passionate about.

On one of our first day’s brainstorming, surrounded by bill books, Skye suggested we take a deeper look at our current South Carolina Superintendent of Education, Ellen Weaver. In her Student Ambassador (read Student Ambassadors End of an Era) class the previous year, Skye researched our local candidates for state office, and Weaver had raised a couple of red flags. If we could improve the head of the education system, it would only stand to reason that every school and student would benefit, we reasoned. It seemed as though we found our lightbulb moment. 

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But despite our passion, my bill partner and I went back and forth, debating other possible bills and finding holes within our original idea. I called out of work, and we spent the rest of the night researching and drafting until finally, we had a bill we were proud of. 

As the month went on, we further revised and eventually submitted our bill to go in the 2023 Bill Book, wrote scripts and closing summations, anticipated potential objections to our bill, planned outfits that would demand confidence, and practiced public speaking as much as we could. 

Until finally, all of our hard work was about to be put to the test. The GMC students were leaving for Columbia.

As soon as I saw the State House through our bus window, I knew I made the right decision in going. 

The schedule was tightly packed for the legislative field trip, leaving only a few slots of time for personal means. Our weekly schedule looked something like this: 

Day 1: Opening Convocation

Day 2: Presenting Bills in Committees and Chambers and Mando Fun Night 

Day 3: Presenting Bills in the State House and Mando Fun Night 

Day 4: Closing Convocation 

 

Opening Convocation was amazing. We listened to the next year’s leadership candidate speeches, and I was filled with awe. The people I saw around me believed in making a difference and saw themselves as being a part of the solution. An added bonus: I came out of the night with a lot of candidate buttons. 

Still riding the high of the previous night, Skye and I power-suited up to present our bill in Committee and (we hoped) House on day 2. We chased our bill around the different chambers all day and thankfully, were passed unanimously in both Committee and House. 

The third day, with the help of our co-sponsor, our bill also passed through Senate. During this process, we not only got to speak about our bill to every listening ear, but we also got to talk in affirmation or opposition to other proposed bills. Sitting through as many bills as we did can get a little monotonous, but I loved raising my placard to speak.  One lesson I learned through presenting in front of a crowd of government-oriented people is this: there is nothing more cathartic than speaking your mind. 

At the tail end of the third day, our bill finally made it to the governor’s desk. Annika Krovi was the 2023 governor. 

However, in our quasi-meeting, the YIG Superintendent of Education, Ava Westhart, led the anticipated conversation. Westhart spoke fondly of our bill; she agreed with our nonpartisan motion and understood our intent. Two days prior, when I heard her speak at the Opening Convocation, I was genuinely moved by Westhart’s words, and talking one-on-one was equally as inspiring. We all lined up for a picture and with the snap! of the camera, it felt like history was made. 

On our way back to the convention center, Skye and I kept shouting at anyone who could hear, “We just got our bill signed!” Getting our bill signed was my personal favorite part of the trip.

There are some details of the YIG trip that went beyond a governmental scope, like jumping in a freezing pool and failed karaoke, but another thing I learned is this: what happens at Mando Fun stays and Mando Fun. 

Looking in retrospect, I can only speak of golden-tinged memories of our time in Columbia. From gaining an intimate understanding of how our government works, to being able to actually take part in the process, all while meeting incredible people along the way, what else could I ask for?

 Well, maybe continental breakfast. 

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About the Contributor
Bayleigh Weber, Opinions Editor
Bonjour! My name is Bayleigh, and I am not French! But I am super excited to be back at The Forge for a third year! My role here is Opinions editor, and I also create our monthly bulletin boards. If you like my bulletin boards, you can show your appreciation with cash tips or Zelle donations. When I'm not at school or doing homework, you can find me driving too fast or spending time with my cat, Daisy.
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