A dozen Cairo-Durham Middle School students attended the New York State YMCA Middle School Youth & Government Conference in Albany on November 22-23, 2019.
The two-day conference takes place at the Capitol and immerses students in the political process in an authentic environment. CDMS students experienced the legislative process as they interacted with approximately 350 other students from 25 school districts across the state.
Prior to the conference, students chose topics and researched issues they felt needed to be addressed in government. Then they developed comprehensive bills that included the bill's purpose, the actual language of the proposed law, justification and fiscal implications.
The bills produced by CDMS students focused on topics related to social media and the advertising of vaping products. One bill proposed a ban on vaping advertisements in New York State.
“We are learning about vaping in Health class and our group thought this topic was important to save future generations from vaping,” said seventh grade student Lauren Zecca.
At the conference, students had the opportunity to present their bills for debate and vote on the Senate and Assembly floors. Bills were presented to committees and participants asked questions about the bills and engaged in a series of rigorous debates that followed formal procedure.
Complete with a microphone operator, name placards, and a spot in an actual law maker’s chair, this authentic experience showed students the power they have in creating change in their communities. When groups weren't debating in the Chambers, they toured the Capitol building.
Two CDMS students were presented awards for their outstanding participation and contributions. Jaylin Shores (8) was recognized as Outstanding Speaker and Kevin Feeney (7) was recognized for Outstanding Debate.
“It was a good experience,” said Feeney. “It taught us about the process and real life situations with laws.”
Overall, the conference was an exhilarating and intellectual experience for students. Students not only learned about the political process, they also practiced their public speaking skills, showed extensive critical thinking on complex issues relevant to today's society, acted professionally, and developed stronger social skills as they interacted with a wide range of people. Students also learned that despite deep disagreements on issues, there are many ways to bridge political differences, beginning with a smile and a handshake.