This year Pavel Shirley signed 21 bills into law in Washington, DC. One sought to reduce infant mortality, one to eliminate the FIT deduction, one to create a firearm licensing program. And all of that came before he graduated from Mountain Brook High School, or even started his role as state governor, youth governor that is.
Technically all that bill passing came at this year’s Youth Legislature Governor’s conference with governors from 49 other states and as he was selecting his core team of cabinet officials to work with in the state for the year.
Back in Alabama, he and 52 other MBHS and MBJH students experienced first-hand the processes and positions required to pass a bill in Alabama state government this winter at “Youth Leg,” as they deem it. Students who participate get hands-on experience writing and debating bills, and attend workshops on parliamentary procedure and how to actually write a bill.
The process simulates what happens in the actual Alabama state house. Delegates present bills in committee meetings before those bills are ranked to determine whether they are to be debated on the House or Senate floor. Next, floor leaders for each chamber set the order that the bills will be debated. The participants then move through that list, debating and voting on each bill. If a bill passes one chamber, it will go to the next chamber on the second day of the conference. If a bill makes it through both the House and Senate, it goes to the Youth Governor’s desk to be signed.
Though they may have specific duties to carry out at the conference, students participate in Youth Legislature all year long, often starting their duties from when they are elected up until the conference. To attend and participate in the conference there is an application process, separate from the election process to appoint students with positions in the mock government.
Along the way, many found new aspirations in life. Alison Gaston, who first attended the conference when she was in ninth grade, had no interest in politics as a career when she first started. “Now, four years later and two officer positions later, Youth Legislature has led me to a love for politics and my future major of public relations and political science at the University of Alabama next fall,” she says. “It taught me how to debate, how to work with others even when I don’t agree with their political opinions, and the importance of listening to others, even when I don’t agree.”
Amelia Winston served as a Supreme Court justice “to be better informed about Alabama’s legislative process” and encourages students to attend the conference in the future. “It has been happening for decades and hopefully will continue for many more,” she says. “It’s not only a great way to meet others who are passionate about the same things you are, but is a great way to see if you’re interested in debate or politics.”
More than taking in information about politics and bills, the program provides its participants with a connection to other students all across Alabama and teaches them how to learn from others. “Youth Leg has the ability to foster understanding in a very divided world and bring people together to solve problems,” says senior Chloe Kinderman, aka this year’s Speaker of the House. “Youth Leg has taught me that listening can be much more valuable than speaking. Even if I don’t agree with someone, it’s important to know where they are coming from.”
With that role under her belt, Kinderman knows that real conversations come from understanding someone’s point of view and have the potential to create change. “I now understand more fully how essential cooperation is to solve the complex issues facing our generation,” she says.
Griffin Darden, who served as Chief of Staff, praises Youth Leg for the relationships it helps craft, and how it “helps connect people from across the state and come together to discuss challenges our state faces.”
The conference goes beyond just teaching its “legislators” to tackle complex issues too. It also conveys a better understanding and care for how issues affect everyone in our community. “Youth Leg teaches us to care,” saysMabry Smyer.. “I learned so much at the conference and always leave much more conscious of serious issues that affect our state and our nation. This program fosters youth activism, which to me, is crucial for the future of Alabama.”
This year’s seniors might be retiring from their Youth Leg positions, but there’s no doubt they will continue to make connections and inspire change in the state of Alabama.
MBHS Students in Alabama Youth Legislature Leadership
- Governor: Pavel Shirley
- Lieutenant Governor: Ben Harris
- Speaker of the House: Chloe Kinderman
- First Year Presiding Officer: Alison Gaston
- First Year Clerk: Elanor Kinderman
- Supreme Court Justice: Amelia Winston
- Chief of Staff: Griffin Darden
- Communications Director: Lily Martin