Fifty-one Montgomery Academy seventh and eighth graders participated in the Alabama YMCA Youth in Government's (ALYIG) Junior Youth Legislature program on Friday, January 26, 2018. ALYIG strives to be an entirely student-run program, and their facilitation of student leadership and servant leadership enables even middle school students to find their voices and express ideas about improving state and national government.
High school ALYIG officers run the Junior Youth Legislature program. In addition to teaching students about parliamentary procedure, the officers also help students elect their own leaders for the day. Sarah Stone, a second year Jr. YL participant, served as Pro Tempore in her chamber. Gabe Watrous was Floor Leader, and Lily Shores was the Assistant Clerk. Together with students from Trinity and Floyd, they kept the chamber running smoothly during debate.
Upper School students Carson Roth and Bradley Westhauser, both members of the Montgomery Academy Government Club (and former Jr. YL participants themselves), joined the participants in the Capitol Auditorium where each of their younger brothers were part of The Montgomery Academy delegation. Both Roth and Westhauser currently participate in ALYIG's Youth Legislature (a weekend-long high school legislature program) and Youth Judicial (a weekend-long mock trial competition). In addition, ALYIG officers James Torbert, Hannah Hale and Carter Chandler worked at Jr. YL that day.
Each Montgomery Academy attendee wrote a bill with a group of two or three more students and submitted it to the high school students running the chamber. Because time is limited, only a handful of bills actually make it to the floor for debate. Of the twelve bills debated on the floor, Montgomery Academy students authored six. Sarah Stone and Ellie Stevens authored a "No Photo? No Vote? No Way!" bill about getting rid of the photo ID voting requirement. Kenneth Heumann, Whit Davis, Nico McIntyre and McRae Foshee argued in favor of their "Driver's Permit at 14" bill. Charlie Hill, Braxton Welch and Breland Burnham wanted to convert abandoned "Railroads into Parks and Trails." Claire Moore and Anne Layton Lee's bill, "Completing Community Service Hours Before High School" was one of only two bills to pass in the chamber. The second bill to pass was Carlyle Chandler, Tom Main and Brett Westhauser's "Concussion Protocol" bill. Montgomery Academy students' sixth bill debated on the floor was authored by Jane Abbie Alford, Frannie Brazil, Caroline Heck and Holden Habermacher, and titled, "Every Educator Should be Trained in Basic Health Techniques."
One of the things that must happen for true debate on the floor is for students who wish to speak to have the opportunity to do so. Many of the fifty-one Montgomery Academy students engaged in thoughtful debate and relied on facts and statistics in addition to rhetoric. A number of students who spoke well were noted as Outstanding Delegates at the end of the day: Ruston Bassett, Carlyle Chandler, Tristan Dumas, Lily Shores, Ellie Stevens, Gabe Watrous and Brett Westhauser.
Parent Jennifer Davis, who participated in ALYIG as a high school student, stated about her son, Whit's experience last week,"Youth Legislature provided so many learning opportunities. Working with his classmates to get candidates elected and proposals written, and the chance to argue on behalf of their proposed bill provided valuable experiences for Whit. He heard a news segment recently and recognized that they were talking about a bill that was similar to a classmate's. His participation in Youth Legislature sparked his interest in something he never would have commented on in the past."