South Orangetown Middle School Debate Club delegates presented two bills they had drafted at the New York State YMCA Youth and Government Conference in Albany, November 21-23. Delegates debated bills with approximately 350 peers from across the state on the Assembly floor, various parlor and hearing rooms.
Bill #49 sponsored by seventh-graders Kate H., and Nina G., Elizabeth M. and Isabella P., aimed to allow prisoners the right to attend funerals of family members. Bill #50 sponsored by eighth-graders Ethan C. and Oscar Z. and seventh-graders Arden M. and Mary M. proposed police bias training for all New York Police Department officers. Both bills passed.
Elizabeth won the Outstanding Delegate Award for her performance, participation and collaboration at the Conference and for exemplifying the YMCA’s four core values: honesty, caring, responsibility, respect.
Ethan earned the Outstanding Debate Award, which recognizes students who demonstrate strong public speaking skills, make impressive speeches, ask insightful questions. Awardees are nominated by advisors and YMCA staff based on their presence and performance while in committees and chambers.
SOMS students also had the opportunity to develop their leadership qualities by running as a candidate for an officer position at next year’s conference. “Although I was not elected, I strongly respect my fellow candidates and the conference is in good hands for next year with the newly elected officers,” said Isabella. “My main motivation for running was to be a voice for those that were not confident enough to speak on their own behalf. I was truly honored to represent my delegation and the whole conference was an experience of a lifetime.”
“These students come together from around the state with different backgrounds, beliefs and ideas. They ideate a bill they want to research, write and present,” says SOMS Library Media Specialist and Debate Club advisor Kimberlee Landgraff. “They have the courage to get up and share their ideas with a large group of strangers, hoping they can persuade them to vote in their favor. Over the days of non-stop activity, they find time to connect with other students from around the state and make friends with people that may have debated against or for their bill.”