Local students get inside track on government know-how thanks to YCMA, Chevron Phillips

Published 12:20 am Saturday, February 10, 2024

Students such as America Ochoa have found their voice in YMCA Youth & Government.

The Bob Hope High School student said she, and others, have been told they’re too young to understand the issues around them, but with this organization, they now have a voice.

Ochoa and team partner Gustavo Garcia made a proposal during a recent conference on the topic of access to mental health for youth.

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Woodrow Wilson Early College High School students Dana Nguyen and Jacob Wells made their proposal on combatting the problem of teachers leaving the profession.

They were part of 16 local Youth & Government who students attended a conference in Austin. Nguyen and Wells made it all the way to the semi-finals.

But attending the conference is costly.

To help with the needed funding, Chevron Phillips Chemical Port Arthur stepped up to the plate and covered all of the students’ conference fees — $450 per student, for a total of $6,750.

Chevron Phillips Chemical Port Arthur General Manager Gary Parsley and community relations representative Emily Mellen were on hand this week to celebrate the students.

What is Y&G?

YCMA Director Kevin Pearson said the Youth and Government program has existed in Texas since 1948 and is also found across the nation.

“What I love about this program is our student leaders learn about the processes, learn about what it takes in order to change the laws, in order to change what we do in our society,” Pearson said Thursday at a check presentation at the West Side Development Center.

“I always say it’s easy for us to stand around and protest, it takes work in order to make change happen. Participating in this program is getting a leg up on making that happen. One of the great mottos of the Youth and Government program is this — democracy is learned by each generation.”

In Y&G students take the role of senator or representative, attorney, lobbyist and press member. The program allows students to learn how government works and helps with research and communication skills. Students become aware of social issues and their possible solutions, among other objectives.