Urbana Youth and Government Club travels to Annapolis for statewide conference


Alyssa Ferrante and Jess Kilgore, Reporter

Recently, Urbana High’s Youth and Government Club attended the MD Youth and Government Conference in Annapolis. This is a nationwide club that gives students a firsthand experience with how the government works. The club is sponsored by Ms. Nicklas and its president is sophomore Sophie Nielsen. During club time, students learn how to write bills, lobby for laws, and pass legislature. Club members review their legislation and discuss their speeches. The club is divided into two programs: legislators and lobbyists. Lobbyist Tommy Schupp described how they are “given bills in the program that they [have] to lobby for or against and the legislators hired lobbyists and also [draft] initiatives”, which is similar to a bill. Everything club members learn throughout the year culminates in a 3-day conference at the State Capitol in Annapolis.

During this conference, club members take part in a mock-legislative session in the House chambers of the Capitol building that reflects the actual proceedings of Maryland and United States Congress. This conference brings together Youth and Government clubs from many different schools in Maryland. In an interview with the Hawkeye, club members explained how once they got to Annapolis, everything they did in club time came together. Club member Connor Kelly explained, “The first day we were in committees deciding on what bills would go to the House and Senate.” The legislative group then got to present their bills on the actual House floor of the Capitol, just as actual members of Congress would do. Legislators would go to the podium at the front of the chambers and give their opening statements. Then people would ask them questions, they’d debate the bill, and finish with their closing statement. Lobbyist Tommy Schupp described how he “went between different committees and lobbied for bills as they came up.” The next day, the bills proposed by the lobbyists and presented by the legislators were voted on to decide if they would pass through the House and the Senate. Finally, the governor could decide whether to sign the bill or veto it.

Students at the conference were able to discuss bills and topics they were interested in. For example, Kelly’s bill was about subsidizing rehab centers and halfway houses. Some other interesting topics discussed were lowering the voting age to 16, funding ways to stop human trafficking, and even legalizing marijuana. In fact, Kelly said that “one of the bills legalized 67 schedule 1 narcotics and it passed unanimously in the House.”

An exciting event for the Urbana Youth and Government club was when one of their members, Tommy Schupp, was named Head Lobbyist for next year’s conference. This means that he will be in charge of all of the lobbyists at next year’s conference. This is especially impressive as it is only his first year as a lobbyist.

This club has many benefits for students other than teaching them how government works. All the members agreed that it helped them be more confident speaking in front of many people.

President Sophie Nielsen said, “you definitely learn a lot about all these different topics that you wouldn’t have even considered as being important.” This club also helps prepare students for their future. Kelly added, “It definitely fostered my love for politics and I am more dedicated now to becoming a politician and going forward in that career.” The members agreed that some of the best parts of the club are meeting different students, writing your own bill, and convincing people to agree with your ideas. Lobbyist Tommy Schupp said that he “convinced a number of people to be against the idea of an income tax.”

When asked why more people should join the club, all of the members agreed with Kelly that “it was a lot of fun hanging out with all those people. You meet so many cool people. It really is indescribable. You have to experience it.”

The MD Youth and Government Club will continue next year and is open for anyone to join. Anyone interested in this club is encouraged to contact Ms. Nicklas and to sign up for the Youth and Government club next year.