Students from Notre Dame's middle division spent three days in Lansing learning about compromise and passing legislation.
The YMCA Michigan Youth in Government (MYIG) program provides high school and middle school students with an opportunity to become acting state legislators. A contingent of students from Notre Dame's middle division spent three days and two nights in Lansing recently working alongside other students at an MYIG conference to share ideas, develop their own legislative bills and grow as leaders.
It was the second year in a row that Notre Dame middle division 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 "legislators."
"It was a fun, learning experience and also helps you get better at public speaking while having a good time, said sixth-grader Meetali Mohindra.
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 students participated in one of two simulation-based activities: political compromise and legislation.
"Everyone from our group was engaged in the Capitol building at least part of the day," she said. "Legislators debated from the floor of the Michigan state senate chamber, and 'political compromise' was conducted at the Lansing campus of WMU-Cooley Law School with time in the Capitol building between sessions included."
Schmidt said that the students who were engaged with the political compromise part of the conference addressed the use of the Great Lakes as a fresh water source for other parts of our nation.
"Some were generally in favor and some were generally opposed, but all participated in an evidence-based, reasoned discussion about the logistics and the impact to Michigan, which is a reality regularly addressed by the 'real' legislature," she said. "Five sixth graders and one seventh grader from Notre Dame participated in this activity: Peyton Von Bernthal, a seventh grader, and Eric Davis, Amelia Kayi, Meetali Mohindra, Siddharth Mohindra, and Aleksandra Reaume, all sixth graders, filled out the school's contingent at Cooley Law School."
Kayi noted that in ordinary life, people have really good things to say, but sometimes it’s hard for them to make themselves clear.
"In political compromise, we listen to each other and talk about decisions that are best for everyone," she said after discussing at length the sharing of water from Michigan's Great Lakes with other states. "I learned a lot about our lakes as well as about the droughts out west."
Meanwhile, at the State Capitol, two student legislators from Notre Dame were busy writing their own bills for debate.
"Eighth graders John Jernigan and Luka Cvetkovic each wrote legislation," Schmidt said. "John was the Senate reading clerk and Luka served as the inspirational leader for the house chamber. Luka also provided the invocation at last night's banquet. I'm so proud of Luka, John, and all of our kids who participated over these past three days."
Jernigan said the MYIG sessions are a great way to learn about democracy in action.
"Assisting the Lt. Governor helped me understand the process of getting a bill passed and how many stages there really are."
Cvetkovic also was impressed by the legislative process.
"It’s amazing to see each and every bill in action," he said. "It’s great to work on the bills and improve them in committee. Plus, I learned a lot about parliamentary procedure for running meetings. And you get to meet a lot of new people and make a lot of new friends."
Schmidt said that Jernigan's bill, which revised existing Michigan law to expand all future references of tobacco-related legislation to apply to vaping products, was passed by both chambers and approved by the MYIG lieutenant governor. Therefore, it will be advancing to the "real" Speaker of the Michigan House and then to the Lt. Gov. for consideration in the Michigan Congress.
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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. The school's upper division 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 divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions 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