Miller Middle School students participate in Junior Youth Assembly | Best Of
A group of students from Miller Middle School was selected to travel to Atlanta to participate in a hands-on program where students take on the role of the state government for three days. The program, the Junior Youth Assembly, is hosted annually by the Georgia Center for Civic Engagement. This year it took place Sunday, November 3, through Tuesday, November 5.
The Junior Youth Assembly is a three-day residential simulation in which students in grades six through eight assume the role of state representative or senator, a lobbyist, or a member of the media. In this program, students experience first-hand the legislative process, from developing an idea into a bill, following the bill through committee to the floor of the House or Senate, and possibly to the youth governor’s desk to be signed into law.
Miller Middle School eighth-graders Annabel DeSmet, Joseph Heaton, Tobias Kopp, and Nika Lofton each researched and submitted bills ahead of the event, while Judy Griffin, Miller’s Academic Team coach, served as their adviser.
The students prepared for the event with a bill-writing workshop led by Brittany Hamilton of the Georgia Center for Civic Engagement.
“She told us to write something that we really cared about and something that we could argue for,” Nika said. “We had to do a lot of research and it took a lot of time. I had to look at the Georgia law to see if anything conflicted with it, and things like that.”
Bills were submitted to the Georgia Center for Civic Engagement for review, and out of about 100 submissions 24 House bills and 24 Senate bills were selected by staff, educators from around the state, and real state representatives to be presented at the Junior Youth Assembly in November. The bills written by all four Miller students were accepted.
“I knew these students could do it. They’re just wonderful students. I’ve known them for three years, I taught them last year for science, and I knew that they would do well. This being our first year I was hoping we’d have at least one bill for debate, but when I got the message that all four had been selected I was just overjoyed because they all worked really hard and they really deserve it,” Mrs. Griffin said.
Their bills were:
· Annabel DeSmet, House Bill 12: To decrease child abuse, domestic violence, and bullying by creating a hotline that is very easily accessed and advertised in as many ways as possible to get victims to speak up and get help before it is too late.
· Joseph Heaton, House Bill 7: To separate the accusations and trials of first and second degree principals in Georgia.
· Tobias Kopp, Senate Bill 15: To increase student learning in classrooms by enacting a law making it mandatory to have nonwaivable maximum class sizes for all upper elementary and middle grades classroom settings.
· Nika Lofton, Senate Bill 14: To better education by requiring all upcoming public middle school and high school teachers to have a Master’s degree in their subject of teaching.
“We will be presenting our bills in front of a mock House and Senate, and they will debate our bills and we’ll be there to answer questions,” Annabel said.
Students whose bills were not selected for review acted as members of the House or Senate. They were assigned a bill and had to argue for or against it.
“The bills will be decided on – they will either be passed, passed with recommendations for change, or not passed at all,” Mrs. Griffin said. “It’s very possible that if it’s a really good bill it could go to the youth governor’s desk, and if it’s picked up by one of our state representatives it may be made into a real bill that gets signed into law.”