Large contingent of Notre Dame Middle School students spend nearly three days at the Capitol Building in Lansing debating and passing legislation, and, most importantly, learning about compromise.
The YMCA Michigan Youth in Government (MYIG) program provides middle school students throughout the state with an opportunity to become state legislators. A contingent of students from Notre Dame's middle school spent nearly three days and two nights in Lansing recently at an MYIG conference working alongside other students to share ideas, develop their own legislative bills and grow as leaders.
It was the third year in a row that Notre Dame middle school students participated in the annual event, which is always held in the state capital when the house and senate are not in session. All of the students on hand were given the use of the actual Michigan House and Senate chambers along with legislative committee rooms to carry out their duties as student-legislators.
According to LeAnne Schmidt, who teaches Notre Dame's 8th-grade individuals and societies class and seventh-grade writing, and who also manages the school's debate activity, the third year of Notre Dame at Michigan Youth in Government was "a blockbuster."
"We went from eight students last year to seventeen this year," she said. "We were also fortunate this year to have Debbie Privert from our high school counseling office join us as an advisor since her son, Nick, was attending."
Students at MYIG sessions end up writing legislation of their own to submit and discuss for passage. This year, Notre Dame Middle School students submitted bills regulating tobacco and vaping, banning abortion, and one requiring late-start days every three weeks for schools. As you can tell, said Schmidt, they pick their own topics.
"After opening activities, meetings, and committee sessions this past Sunday, legislators spent the entire day Monday at the Capitol Building and novice negotiators in political compromise divided their time between Cooley Law School and the Capitol," Schmidt added. "By the end of the day, advisors in each session selected an outstanding legislator who embodied the YMCA's core values: caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility."
At the session-closing meeting on Tuesday morning, it was announced that Notre Dame seventh-grader Eric Davis was named outstanding legislator for the House of Representatives in only his second year with MYIG. He served as a committee clerk in addition to his role as a legislator.
"In the political compromise arena, a program designed to develop collaborative skills in defining the best possible legislative platform for the citizens of the State of Michigan on a topic (this year, video game regulation), our own Andrew Brownell, another seventh grader, was selected as the outstanding delegate for his ability to work with others in only his first year with the program," said Schmidt.
According to Notre Dame eighth-grader Tessa Boehme, a participant in the legislature, she appreciated the change of pace from the classroom.
"I liked that we got to experience situations that we wouldn't be able to see at school and learn how government works," she said.
Seventh-grader Davis added that he learned that it's very important to listen to others and work with them in order to arrive at a resolution.
"The more you speak and participate, the more you will get out of the experience," he said. "I really enjoyed working as a committee clerk to help the chamber record all group decisions on the bills."
Schmidt said that she was happy with the middle school's progress in the program.
"I am so pleased with the growth of our program, which more than doubled in size this year," she said. "I also think that every Notre Dame student could benefit from participating in these types of events, not just in understanding U.S. history and persuasive speaking, but in learning how to relate to one another with fairness and grace while sharing quality information with empathy."
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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three school are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org