Youth & Government Advances to State Conference

Pilot program wins awards, accolades at district competition


Ron Perry, Northwest Branch of YMCA

Left to Right: Mrs. Bell, Becca Brown, Shilo Criswell, Caroline Cravens, Juan Miguel Perez, Jack Densmore, Alejandro Norato, Jared Bouloy and Sophia Griffin

Based on their performance at the YMCA Youth & Government District Conference, seniors Becca Brown, Caroline Cravens, Shilo Criswell, Alejandro Norato, Juan Miguel Perez, junior Jack Densmore and sophomore Jared Bouloy advanced to the State Conference that will be held at the State Capitol in January.

On November 22, the seven members of the pilot program YMCA Youth & Government team traveled to Austin High School to participate and compete in the District Conference. The program is the only one of its kind in Williamson County or LISD, so these students had no experience with the conference or what to expect.

At the end of a District Conference day filled with legislative bills, mock trials and state affairs committees led by students from other Austin and Corpus Christi area high schools, the LHS team won three Distinguished Delegate awards in the Media section. Cravens, Perez and Densmore were recognized for their work covering the event as it unfolded throughout the day.

“I was really excited to be recognized as a distinguished delegate,” Perez said. “[YMCA Supervisor Sophia Griffin] was told that the probability of taking this program off the ground was about 5%; however, out of our division in media, only three got recognized, and all were from our school, the 5% probability school.”

Cravens wrote a feature story about Mikayla Goertz, a Bastrop High School junior who is running for Y&G Governor for District 2. Norato served as one of the photographers of the event and his portraits of Goertz helped anchor Cravens’s story. Densmore wrote not one, but two news pieces for the Y&G newsletter that covers the conference. After receiving complimentary remarks from two Austin-American Statesman writers who served as mentors, Densmore felt confident that he had done well. Brown served as photographer and assisted Densmore in capturing photos of the legislative sessions he wrote about.

“I got an urge to want to win and when we were approached with a story idea on the spot from our section leader, I decided that it was a great opportunity given to me,” Densmore said. “I worked my butt off for nearly four hours straight because I felt that I wanted to make a name for myself, and after going through all the meeting and preparation and the nerves, I wanted to feel accomplished with my work at the conference.”

Within the media section, Perez and Bouloy collaborated with YMCA personnel to create video interviews and live social media coverage through Twitter.

“I networked with top YMCA CEOs, professional journalists, professionals with social media backgrounds and also other students,” Bouloy said. “They helped me learn a lot more about media, and how journalists operate in government settings.”

In addition to helping others with their photos to accompany their writing, both Norato and Brown completed their own photo essays to document the day’s events. Their galleries can be seen on the YMCA Youth & Government – Austin Facebook page. Criswell served in dual roles as well, documenting a “behind the scenes” look at a conference member’s experience and helping Hayden Sutherland from Roy Miller High School in photographing students he interviewed for his fashion/style story.

“I had to learn how to collaborate ideas with a new person,” Criswell said. “My project was a lot easier to do because right when I thought of the idea, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.”

Prior to the district conference, each student completed a media project and several assignments to demonstrate their journalistic skills.

“We had to submit a binder full of specific assignments and projects before the conference,” Brown said. “I’m very proud of our team. I had so much fun and I’m glad that I was able to spend the day with such an amazing group of people.”

Mrs. Danielle Bell and Youth & Government sponsor Sophia Griffin served as mentors to prepare the team for the conference.

“We could not have done any of this without all the support we had from our parents, Mrs. Spicer and our LHS family, our beloved Sophia Griffin from the YMCA and all of the members of the YMCA who believed in our pilot program,” Bell said. “We are so grateful for them and we are so excited to make it to State.”