YIG students preparing for state conference

MANISTEE — What is transforming in the political scene on a daily basis in Lansing and Washington D.C. has never been in the news spotlight more than in the past few years.

Manistee High School junior Ryan Biller who is a candidate for the Youth in Governor position is shown campaigning at the district level for the nomination. He will find out at the end of the month at the state conference if he will become the second Manistee High School student to ever win that position with other one being Elissa Laskey.

One of the positive aspects of that is more high school students are becoming engaged in programs like Youth in Government (YIG) to learn how the political process works. Students are keeping close tabs on the issues both in the classroom and outside of it.

At the Manistee Area Public Schools, students traveling to Lansing to participate in Youth in Government has been a long standing tradition.  MAPS YIG adviser Stacey Andrews-Ramsey will be taking another contingent to Lansing for this year’s conference Feb. 28 to March 3.

“We have eight students who range from sophomores to seniors  going this year and three of the kids are new while the other five have been before,” said Ramsey-Andrews.

The big news with the group this year is junior Ryan Biller is a candidate for the coveted governor position. If he is elected he would actually serve in that capacity at next year’s conference.

“He was selected in the fall as a candidate and we will find out if he wins the last day of the conference,” said Andrews-Ramsey. “About three years ago we had a governor candidate in Megan Grant who was selected by our district to run, but she was defeated.”

However, way back in 2002 former Manistee High School Youth in Government member Elissa Laskey was elected to the governor position. Biller is hoping to duplicate her success 17 years later and is ready to begin his campaign the end of the month.

Andrews-Ramsey pointed out that Laskey, Grant and Biller are the only three Manistee Youth in Government students over the years to get a nomination for the governor position.

Biller expects this will be a busy conference for him because he also will be serving in the vital role as Speaker of the House this year.

“The campaigning process really begins on the first day of the conference,” said Biller.  “As a Youth Governor Candidate and Speaker of the House, I go down to Lansing a day early for training on what I need to do to lead an entire house of delegates,” said Biller. “Once I am there I will begin campaigning — handing out buttons, water bottles, suckers, and some other things with my campaign logo on them.”

He also has to show the fellow delegates that as a governor candidate he has a platform to run on and is up on the issues.

“In addition to that, there is a question and answer session for delegates to ask me questions about how I want to lead as Youth Governor,” said Biller.

Andrews-Ramsey said the rest of the Manistee delegation has its assignments and is looking forward to the conference.

Another member with a key position is Matt Blevins, who was selected to be a committee chair. He follows a strong family tradition in Youth in Government with both of his older brothers and his older sister all being active in the program when they were in high school.

“He and Ryan will go down early to attend that leadership pre-training,” said Andrews-Ramsey. “They have contacted our state representative, Jack O’Malley and Sen. Curt VanderWall to attend a process to meet with them and other leadership members of Youth in Government and that will be pretty exciting.”

Some of the new members of Youth in Government — like sophomore Lily Sagala — are also stepping up with exciting roles.

“Lily has been selected to be a lobbyist and there is a new legislative oversight committee this year. She has been selected to serve on it,” said Andrews-Ramsey. “It is going to have something to do with how legislation is impacting various parts of the state and the legalities.”

The rest of the students will be representatives and take other positions of the legislature.

Youth in Government executive director Lydia Mitchell said they are looking for another great conference this year.

“The Manistee High students will join more than 1,000 students from around the state to serve as legislators, lobbyists, lawyers and press corps reporters during the three-day event,” said Mitchell. “Working with their peers they will develop bills, share ideas and grow as leaders.”

Mitchell said the amazing thing is Youth in Government sometimes comes up with ideas and legislation that is actually put into law by the real legislature.

“YIG students have created legislation that has been adopted statewide, including the anti-bullying law signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in 2011 and the vertical licenses for drivers under the age of 21,” said Mitchell. “Some of the program’s alumni have gone on to careers in the state government, the Foreign Service and United Nations.”

Andrews-Ramsey said she is really pleased with where the Youth in Government program is going at MAPS and sees a bright future for it. This fall she took an energetic group of middle school students to Lansing for a YIG program for that level.

“I am pretty excited to have a group of middle school students that are really attuned to it, which is great,” she said.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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