South Orangetown Central School District

Three Tappan Zee High School Youth and Government Club officers were recently selected to serve on the Alliance of New York State YMCAs 2021 New York State Youth and Government Model Cabinet. TZHS YAG Co-President Amy Kugelman was named Commissioner of Consumer Protection, Co-President Katrina Peel is Commissioner of Children and Family Services and Vice President Matt Tobin is Commissioner of Transportation.

The YMCA Youth and Government is a three-day, hands-on learning experience in which students serve as part of a model state government. Participants debate bills that they have researched and prepared in the New York State Senate and Assembly. In the past, cabinet members and chapter presidents were invited to participate in a fall weekend retreat at the Greenkill Outdoor Education Center to establish a plan for the year. It is anticipated that this year’s session will be virtual.

Kugelman, Peel and Tobin worked for three years to launch the high school chapter of the YMCA initiative last year. “This program builds character and introduces you to so many ideas that you would not otherwise be exposed to. In the legislative branch, students bring bills that hit home for them. It’s really interesting to see how diverse New York is through the variety of issues that are debated,” Kugelman said.

Starting in January, Cabinet members are charged to research student-submitted bills which pertain to their departments and brief the governor in preparation for the state conference. As Commissioner of Consumer Protection, Kugelman, a junior, is responsible for ensuring that the marketplace is fair and free of deceptive practices.

“Commissioner of Children and Family Services was my top pick because I want to teach,” explained Peel, a junior. “I want to get involved in the community any way I can and this role will help me become more knowledgeable about issues that impact children and families.”

Tobin applied for his role based on his experience with Safe Routes to School, another YMCA program. “I’m interested in politics and law, but enjoy being exposed to all different kinds of subjects. Through Safe Routes to School, I’ve gotten involved with exploring how people move, both in terms of public and personal transportation,” the sophomore said.

The club welcomed Social Studies teacher Scott Muscat as its new advisor this year. “In the short time I’ve been an advisor, I’ve found that our officers are pretty amazing in terms of their leadership skills and passion,” he noted. “COVID-19 has really magnified the impact that state government can have on the lives of everyday citizens. So, even more so now, going into 2021 and beyond, we need students like these who know how state government works and can get involved at a state and local level.”

All three officers emphasized both the intellectual and social benefits of YAG participation. “This club is open to everyone. You don’t have to be interested in a career in politics or government to find a place here. This is an inclusive group and you develop lasting friendships within our chapter and across the state.”

Congratulations, Amy, Katrina and Matt!

Youth And Government NYS Commissioners