South Orangetown Central School District

Seventeen members of Tappan Zee High School’s Youth and Government Club recently participated in the YMCA New York State YAG Conference. Three served on the Youth Governor’s Cabinet: TZHS YAG Co-President Amy Kugelman (Commissioner of Consumer Protection), Co-President Katrina Christopher Peel (Commissioner of Children and Family Services) and Vice President Matt Tobin (Commissioner of Transportation).

Several members earned special recognition at the Conference:

  • Peel was elected Youth Governor of the 86th Annual New York State Youth and Government Conference–the highest honor–and will preside over the annual event in 2022. “My friends convinced me to run at the last minute. I attended social events to campaign and debated a lot to get my name out,” she said. “As Youth Governor, I’m really looking forward to seeing YAG from a different view and to see how much of an impact we can create by boosting involvement. Everyone can be a leader without the label.” Peel was also one of three students state-wide to be awarded the Fosdick-San Antonio Memorial Scholarship, which is presented to active YAG participants who demonstrate community involvement, a passion for service, spirit and enthusiasm.
  • Meline Kalishian was elected Editor-in-Chief, the highest position within the conference press corps, and received the “Outstanding Press Delegate” award. As Editor-in-Chief, Kalishian will lead the statewide press corps during the 2021-22 school year. “This was my second year in Youth and Government and first year doing press,” Kalishian reported. “We produced articles, videos and a podcast and I found it to be more creative, flexible and collaborative than the legislative process.”
  • Tobin won the award for “Outstanding Debater” and was one of 24 students selected to serve as a state delegate to the annual Conference on National Affairs, which is attended by YAG delegates from 33 states and Washington, DC. Delegates are required to write a proposal to change a national or international policy for committee debate at CONA. Tobin previously served as a CONA delegate in 2020. “I feel very lucky to have received this recognition because there are a lot of great speakers across the state, people who really care about what they’re talking about,” Tobin reflected. “And I greatly appreciate the opportunity to represent New York State at CONA again this year. I’ve really valued talking with delegates from other parts of the country whose perspectives are different from my own.”
  • A bill to provide regular, mandatory mental health screenings for children in foster care proposed by Peel, Jack McHugh, and Julia McKenna won the award for “Outstanding Bill.” “We debated from our hearts to bring attention to this important issue,” Peel noted.

Principal Rudy Arietta expressed pride in these students’ accomplishments. “In a very short time, our Youth and Government Club has made a huge impact on the state level,” he said. “This is an indication of how passionate these students are about learning how government works. I am so glad that these students did not let our current situation get in the way of taking advantage of this learning opportunity. It speaks volumes about their interest in the subject, their overall attitude and their work ethic.”

Congratulations to the awardees and to all who participated!

Peel, Tobin and Kalishian