Vandalism Prompts New Restrictions for Youth & Government

Kylie Choi, Staff Writer

The Diablo Valley Youth and Government (Y&G) delegation participated in its last conference of the school year, holding simulated debates and creating fictional bills at the State Capitol building in Sacramento from February 14-17.

As a result of vandalism in previous years, including names etched into wood and gum stuck to vintage seats, delegates were not allowed to carry a bag larger than 6 inches, water, or their own writing utensil.

I think that the ability to use the Capitol of privilege, and we’re granted that privilege,” said program manager of the East Bay Y&G cluster Sebastian De La Rosa. “The leader of the assembly controls the rules of how it is. And they’re the ones that gave us those rules, so I don’t love the rules but I know that we have to abide by them.” 

While some were understanding of the need to set parameters for the event, other participants were skeptical of the effectiveness of the new rules.

“There’s people that want to bring in other computers and stuff like that and you can’t really do that and it’s, like, really limiting,” said freshman Nathan Jay, calling the need for advisers to give delegates writing utensils “a pain,” and adding that “it’s not really preventing anything.” 

Junior Ben Oxendine acknowledged that this was likely the case of a small few ruining a good thing for the majority of respectful participants. “I do completely understand the fact that some delegates carved their names and other things into the senate chairs [and that] is a very valid reason for placing so many restrictions or what people can bring in,” he said. “A large part of the delegates are always on the best behavior but there are a small percentage that are not. They don’t represent the program as a whole but as they still exist the harsh rules of the program are meant to keep those people in check.”

Oxendine added, “I really hope that they did prevent it [vandalism],” noting that many delegates were probably too scared to vandalize. “However, there definitely could’ve been some people that still figured some way to vandalize it when they were bored.”

In spite of the new policies, there were plenty of people who found the experience to be worth while.

“I really love being a part of Youth and Government because it is so much fun and it’s a great way to make friends,” said freshman Molly Breznikar, who added, “It also gives you experiences you wouldn’t normally get, like learning how to lobby and write bills which makes it super awesome.” 

Breznikar participated in the Forum, where delegates were split up into committees, created bills, and then proposed them to the Senate and Assembly. If the bills passed and the Youth Governor (currently Aidan Blain of Southern California) approved the bill, the bill would have the potential to become a law.

The delegation spent 5 days and 4 nights lodging at the Sheraton hotel near the Capitol building as well as the Memorial Auditorium where the Forum (for freshman delegates) was held. The students missed school from Thursday through Monday, although there was no school on Monday.

Jay said that even though he greatly enjoys meeting people from across the state, he said that, “the worst thing [in the program] is probably forum,” a compulsory session for all freshman participants.

“The joint sessions are very long and very tedious after a while,” said Jay of the 2-3 hour sessions for bill proposals in Senate and Assembly.  

On a more positive note, De La Rosa hoped the delegation would start “creating opportunities for people to participate. I would love to see Diablo Valley expand its outreach to the other high schools in that district, and whether kids join or not is a different story.”

De La Rosa is optimistic about current student energy to learn more about the government and participate in it. “Kids that are in the high school, you know, middle school, that college group right now, are some of the most politically engaged and motivated,” he said.”