Roberts Students Attend NYS Youth and Government Conference
Published on 12/10/19
District News Roberts preK-8 School
Two dozen middle school students from Roberts were recently invited to attend the YMCA New York State Youth and Government Conference in Albany. The three-day conference allowed students to participate directly in a simulation of the State’s democratic process, along with about 300 students from across New York State!
Acting as Senators and Assembly Members, students were able to author their own bills and present them in front of committees before facing the student-comprised Assembly. The students’ bill topics included a proposal to reduce SUNY tuition by 32% (which passed), a proposal to build greenhouses in urban schools with solar panels (which passed), a proposal to eliminate Regents exams as a graduation requirement and a proposal to build tiny houses for the homeless around Central New York.
“I’ve never been to Albany, and I love arguing for what I believe in,” eighth grade student Sophie Ranieri explained of her decision to apply for the trip. Sophie’s group wrote a bill to lower SUNY tuition. “We chose this topic because it seemed like it would be good for New York, and it passed… by a lot! It felt amazing that everyone agreed with our ideas. I didn’t know much about politics before I went, but it opened my eyes to how the government works. I’d definitely like to keep talking about issues in our state and what we can change to help make things better and safer.”
“I knew about politics before I went to Albany, but this experience really showed me how to make a bill and how to sell it. In order for a bill to pass, you need to be able to explain it really well, which I didn’t do originally. I learned so much about the State Capitol and the legislative process… everyone was so patient with us. It made me realize that I should do these things when I can… I never know what I will learn! It was so interesting and I learned so much. I’m definitely going to keep taking advantage of opportunities like this.”
Roberts Vice Principal Kevin Murphy attended the conference with the students and noted that students had to learn to work together to research and write the bills, and they also learned Robert’s Rules of Order and how to improve their public speaking skills. But more than that, he said it was a great experience to help students gain civic readiness skills that will carry with them in the years to come.
“It was great to see the kids disagree on an issue, but do it in a way that both sides were able to communicate their position, and it did not lead to a negative situation,” Mr. Murphy explained. “Socially, they had the opportunity to get out of Syracuse and work and play alongside kids from across New York State. They got to see that it was okay to push themselves in a new environment. It was an environment that forced kids out of their comfort zone and showed them the importance of getting involved and staying involved as they get older.”
Mr. Murphy mentioned that many of the students who attended the conference are in the IB Middle Years Programme as well, which requires them to do a community service project in the spring. He noted that the experience in Albany helped serve as a building block for the students as they start brainstorming how they can improve their community!