by Jared Hines
Youth in Government — commonly referred to as YIG — is a state government simulation program that has over 1,300 youth participants. Much like any national or state government, YIG is broken down into three categories: legislative, judicial, and executive.
The Elk River chapter of YIG is well-represented, including two students who will hold important positions in YIG as they move forward in their high school careers.
“I joined YIG my freshman year and I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from the program,” Elk River sophomore Joe Anderson said. “I had only decided to join because a YIG alumnus visited my AP Human Geography class.”
Both Anderson and Sadhika Prabhu were among dozens of local students in the Elk River delegation that attended the YIG conference in January. The conference was held downtown at the Hilton hotel in Minneapolis. The Elk River delegation represents Elk River, Rogers and other local schools. Prabhu attended Salk Middle School in Elk River but now attends Blaine High School and lives in Maple Grove. Still, she was able to participate with former classmates in the YIG conference.
“The program set up in Elk River is so great that I have decided to stick with it,” Prabhu said. “This year and the last we really came together as a delegation to support people going for statewide positions and we were finally successful this year. It’s just a great example of how YIG can prove to be a great time of coming together, especially in our delegations.”
The statewide position that Prabhu mentioned was Anderson being appointed to be the 2018 Minnesota YIG secretary of state. Anderson announced his candidacy about a month before the YIG conference and then went to work at creating a Twitter and Instagram account to spread the word to #GoWithJoe.
“The January conference rolled around, and I found myself sitting in the house chamber during out first floor session. The first bill was presented and debate opened up. Immediately I realized why Youth in Government was special to so many people,” Anderson said. “It was a setting where youth from all across Minnesota had an outlet to share their experiences and beliefs. Bills were fiercely debated, and the house floor was a place for many diverse perspectives to be listened to and voted on. Bills failed and passed based on the strength of the ideas that opposed or affirmed them.”
Prabhu also was voted on for a position in the 2017 conference, being elected as the chief judge of the district courts. Being elected to a position can bring a lot more work for those who are voted in, but for Prabhu and many other members of YIG, fun is the name of the game.
“We have a dance, a carnival, realistic town hall debates and the opportunity to stay at a hotel for four days with friends that we know and live by and use it as an opportunity to meet with those we don’t see year-round,” Prabhu said. “Our days are long but very enjoyable and some great traditions are made.”
On top of taking over the Hilton hotel in Minneapolis, the YIG conference also takes over many of the state government buildings during the week to enhance the real-life experience that Youth in Government tries to give students. Many students were excited to see the renovations to the Capitol and because, of the mutual respect between the Capitol staff and the YIG conference members, the delegations that came to the 2017 YIG conference were among the first to step inside the newly renovated building.
“The area that I will now be leading in, we get to use robes, sit behind the bench, and realize that we are sitting in a place where the adults who dictate most of our lives sit when they are making real-life decisions,” Prabhu said.
YIG members are allowed to join in eighth grade, and many who attend at the young age of 14 are usually back until they are seniors in high school. Those who have any curiosity about government are encouraged to try it one year to see what it’s all about, and YIG alumnus frequently visit underclassman classrooms to try to promote YIG programs at a state and national level. The next conference that the Elk River delegation will be involved in is the Model United Nations Conference that takes place March 30 to April 1. The delegation is hoping to have more members attend and to continue to grow overall as a program. The Elk River delegation was the fourth largest delegation at January’s conference.
For Anderson and Prabhu the work is just beginning but both expressed how much they enjoy YIG and the amount of support they got from other members of the delegation. That support helped push them through the long days and nights as they prepared for the January conference and will continue to prepare for conferences going forward.
“I noticed the relationships that were built during the conference,” Anderson said. “YIG became like family. Only Youth in Government could build these deep connections. I am certain that I made many lifelong friends at that January conference.”
“When I think about what we have accomplished and then also the little jokes I’ve made with friends, old and new, I have to smile,” Prabhu said. “You don’t need to be in YIG for all five years to have a good experience. These memories can be formed over just one conference.”