Aspiring teen politicos have long been attracted to California’s Youth and Government (Y&G) program. The local Diablo Valley YMCA (DVY) chapter is based nearby in Moraga. It has recently been gaining notoriety in the program community for the work ethic of its delegates.
This past Y&G season, several DVY members were selected to attend the Conference on National Affairs (CONA) and the National Judicial Competition (NJC), two of the most prestigious offshoots of the Youth and Government program. Junior Mikaela Moore was chosen to attend CONA, while senior Maddy Yzurdiaga, sophomore Sam Heckle, and College Preparatory School junior Hannah Fuchscuber were picked to go to NJC.
CONA, held at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly in Black Mountain, North Carolina, focuses primarily on international or national issues of social, political, or economic consequence. 25-member student delegations from Y&G programs from around the country gather to debate proposals through 5 sessions. These sessions are made of up of 3 committee sessions, 1 General Assembly, and the final Plenary session. As a proposal progresses through each session, the audience grows larger until the entire conference is present in the Plenary round, according to the CONA delegate manual. The conference is slated to begin June 25, and ends July 5.
To apply, California’s prospective delegates must submit a written application and a video submission before the end of the 1st of the 5 nights of the Sacramento conference.
Moore, who submitted her video portion just before the 12 AM deadline, felt a rush of relief as she heard her name called in the final joint session a few days later. “I have never wanted anything so bad in my life! That entire day, I was so stressed about everything I just couldn’t function, I was just too excited,” she recalled.
Moore had not expected to be chosen for one of the program’s highest honors, instead feeling dejected as she entered the convention center. “When we went to the final joint session, my hand in my face like, ‘I didn’t get in, I didnt get in,'” she said.
Moore said that she felt initially confused when she found out she had been selected as a reserve candidate on the CONA roster. As it dawned on her that her hard work had paid off, “There was this overwhelming sense of accomplishment,” she said. “I went backstage and I was like, ‘Whoa. I made it!'” Ultimately, a female delegate dropped out of the roster, and Moore was granted the opportunity to move up. “It is such a huge honor,” she said.
Moore, who intends on running for a statewide elected position next year, said that a CONA nomination is “the next step” to increasing her chances. Eventually, Moore dreams of becoming a Supreme Court Justice. “When I was younger I had wanted to be a doctor, but now I’m definitely way more into government now because of Y&G. It’s something that this program really gives you, how important government is. So yeah, even being a senator or a representative, that’s the dream job.”
NJC, on the other hand, is an expansion of Y&G’s model court system. Delegates from the California delegation will be traveling to Chicago, Illinois to compete against delegations from other states by debating court cases. NJC consists of two program areas: Appellate Court and Trial Court. The two differ in presentation of cases, since the Appellate system is based on court appeals and the Trial system is the more traditional system of hearings.
Yzurdiaga, who applied and was selected to be part of Sacramento’s Judicial Review board, was delighted to be able to continue to foster her love of the judicial system. Like Moore, Yzurdiaga did not have high hopes initally. “I heard Hannah’s name called before mine, and I thought I didn’t get in because I thought they were announcing the names by delegation. Eventually we got to the end of the list and the advisor in charge of NJC started to apologize for not knowing how to pronounce the next person’s name, and I was like, ‘Is it my name she doesn’t know how to pronounce? I hope so!'”
Yzurdiaga’s ambitions extend far beyond the Y&G program. Next year, she is attending UCLA to study law and hopefully pursue a career in the justice system. She attributes some of her passion to Y&G. “It helps to join the program because you never know where you’ll end up,” she said.