If the accomplishments of Cartersville High School's Y-Club are any indication, Georgia's political future will be in good hands.
Sponsor Sarah Boy and CHS/Embry Riddle Aeronautical University teacher Amy Archer took 23 Y-club members to the 75th State YMCA of Georgia Annual Youth Assembly Nov. 17-19 at the State Capitol in Atlanta, and the group came home with a number of political accomplishments.
The three-day learning opportunity teaches students in grades 9-12 about the workings of the state government and gives them an opportunity to discuss current state issues with administrators, elected officials and students from high schools across Georgia.
The conference — led by teens elected to the offices of governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House the previous year by their fellow delegates — is a model legislature where students participate in all parts of the state government, including legislative, judicial, media and lobbyist programs.
"I take students each year because I feel so strongly about the program," said Boy, who has accompanied a group to the conference for the past eight years. "I grew up in this program, attending Youth Assembly all four years I was in high school, and it is part of why I am a teacher today. These students learn so much about our government process by actually participating in it. They learn more about our state government these three days than they ever could in a classroom setting."
The delegates from Cartersville, who were allowed to choose the government program in which they wanted to participate, scored several victories during the conference.
"I am so proud of the group's accomplishments this year," Boy said. "We had students participating in all parts of the program and were honored to have students win Best Judicial Brief [Charlotte McClung and Margaret Gaines], Best Senate Bill [Juliana Hartley], [and] Evans Toviave was named the co-editor of the media program for next year, and Chloe Satterfield was elected youth governor."
Gaines and McClung also made it to the semifinal round in the judicial program in their first year competing, and Jenny Crum served as a committee chairwoman in the Senate all weekend.
And five of the six bills the delegation wrote and introduced were signed by the youth governor: senior Will Simmons' bill to eradicate bovine viral diarrhea in cattle through mandatory testing at state sales barns, junior Hartley's bill to establish term limits for state legislators, junior Satterfield's bill to create a Civic Education Fund in Georgia for the purpose of increasing civic education, sophomore Crum's bill to enact a law to remove the state sales tax on menstrual products in Georgia and freshman Harrison Caswell's bill to allow local municipalities to regulate fireworks in their community.
Freshman Henry Smith's bill to create government incentives for purchasing electric and hybrid cars passed the House but failed in the Senate.
"I was most proud of how our group worked together, whether it was helping each other with writing bills and preparation before we left, campaigning for Chloe to win youth governor to encouraging each member of our group to do their best," Boy said. "They represented Cartersville and Cartersville High School so well."
Other Y-Club members who attended the assembly were Alli Archer, Bill Archer, Parker Browning, Madison Burney, Mary Knox Dawson, Carson Gage, Drew Harkins, Brianna Kim, Kase McElwee, Camden Meadows, Molly Moore, Cameron Rhodes, Mia Shaw and Micole Sy.
Satterfield, 16, said she feels "incredibly honored" to have been elected next year's youth governor.
"It’s a fantastic opportunity, and I couldn’t be more excited to serve," she said. "I ran against one other candidate from Madison. There was a total of 22 schools at Youth Assembly this year, each with one vote. I was told that the election was rather close, but the YMCA staff doesn’t usually show us the exact results."
The youth governor-elect said she's wanted to run for the position for more than a year.
"It’s the highest-ranked student position at Youth Assembly, a program put on by the State YMCA of Georgia," she said. "That organization has provided me with a niche of sorts at CHS through Y-Club and has helped me find purpose in everyday life — being a servant for my peers and community. I have tried to pour my heart into our local Y-Club, and I felt like the next step was to serve my peers all over the state. There are many initiatives and elements I hope to add to our program to better the student experience at Youth Assembly, and I was highly motivated by those ideas. I hope to go into public policy in the future so I also felt like the position would be a fabulous learning experience."
Boy said she is "so excited for Chloe to experience a year as youth governor."
"This is something she has been working on for almost a year, and to see her fulfill her dream was incredible," she said. "She will represent Cartersville High School so well, and I am excited to see what this year brings for her."
During her campaign, Satterfield said she promoted a platform that consisted of "three main pillars — service, empowerment and leadership."
"I chose these topics because I wanted to take the focus off of myself and place it on the students that I would be leading," she said. "I wanted to show that I was running not for the position title or the prestige but because I truly wanted to help our state’s youth recognize that we can create change around us for the better. We also placed a lot of emphasis on local leadership because I’m a firm believer that some of the most important change is made in our communities."
Satterfield appreciated all the help she received with her campaign.
"Getting everything ready for Youth Assembly this year was draining, but the Cartersville-Bartow community was extremely supportive," she said. "It makes me so happy that our campaign was something that brought students across the county together and that they could unite under it. I definitely could not have done this without the support of my peers."
In her new role, Satterfield said her main responsibility will be to "meet with students who write bills" at next year's Youth Assembly.
"We will discuss their legislative ideas, and I can give them feedback, such as whether or not I would sign the bill, how to debate it or amendments I would suggest," she said.
She also will be required to attend other YMCA conferences, including the Georgia United Nations Assembly, Junior Youth Assembly, IMPACT summer leadership training in Covington, D.C. leadership trips and the Youth Governors Conference hosted by the National YMCA Youth and Government program.
"I am also getting the opportunity to go to the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina," she added.
But her most exciting responsibility, Satterfield said, will be discussing with YMCA staff and students across the state "how we can make Youth Assembly and our Y-Clubs even better."
"I love being able to research new initiatives that can improve civic engagement across Georgia so I will also be working on developing ways to aid early bill development, expanding non-legislative programs at Youth Assembly and helping students start or strengthen local Y-Clubs," she said.
Boy said she hopes her students have learned that "everyone has a role to play in our government process and that one person can have an idea and make a change."
"And that by participating in this program as students, they will continue to be involved in their local communities and the political process as adults," she said.