Monday night was an evening marked by democracy and leadership after 18 high school students presented bills before a panel as part of the Y’s teen leadership program. The evening prepared students for their upcoming trip to the State Capitol.

Every year, the Anaheim Family YMCA Youth and Government program holds a “Bill Hearing Night,” which gives students a voice in their community because they address key issues in society that they want to see changed.

Bill topics ranged from student safety to equality amongst individuals in the workplace.

Sam Olsen, a junior in high school, explains why preparing for the State Capitol trip is so important for him and his teammates.

“We have been working hard since September coming up with bills, writing them, doing the research, learning about the legislation process and now presenting them in front of important people,” said Olsen.

“The presentations at the State Capitol is the hardest part, so we have to continue working hard to make our bills better.”

17-year old Samantha Baker has been involved with the program for two years and shared what she has gained throughout her experience.

“I feel more confident going up and doing public speaking,” said Baker. “I love Y&G and spending time with my Y family because I’m learning new things, having fun and I’m preparing myself for college.”

“Bill Hearing Night,” also allows panel members to give advice and feedback to help students improve their bills and delivery before they present them in Sacramento along with 2,000 students representing other YMCA’s in California.

“I admire these kids for their courage to get up in front of adults and speak about what they believe in,” said Jordan Brandman, newly-elected city council member and guest panelist for the evening.

“They are learning how our government works, gaining valuable experiences and skills and also learning how to make a difference.”

Other guest panelists included: Lieutenant Kelly Jung of the Anaheim Police Department, Patricia Sandoval, principal at Thomas Edison Elementary School and Chris French, former YMCA Youth and Government Program Director.

The YMCA Youth and Government program provides outstanding educational and social experiences for high school students and focuses on building values based on leadership and civic engagement to strengthen democracy and experience political life first-hand.

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