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Cleburne Among Competitors at Youth and Government State Conference


                For the third consecutive year, Cleburne High School will be represented at the YMCA Youth and Government State Conference, which begins today at the state capitol.

                Advancing from the Fort Worth District Conference following successful competition in legislative events are Hannah Marion, Avery Tapia and Madison Lynn. Senior and veteran Youth and Government member Reese Williams is making a return trip to state and is a member of the Governor’s Cabinet.

                Cleburne HS was a well-known adversary in Texas Youth and Government competition in the 1970s and 1980s. In 2017-18, a group of CHS students chose to expand on their debating skills in reviving the program as an extracurricular opportunity. The goal of the YMCA-sponsored initiative for middle school and high school students is to “create an environment in which participants can increase their political awareness and understanding while learning the meaning of social action through an actual hands-on experience in government.”

                Williams was encouraged to get involved in Youth and Government by her mother, who competed in the program when she was at CHS. She is looking forward to watching her fellow Jackets experience the same excitement she did as a first-time qualifier.

                “They haven’t seen the state conference in action,” Williams said. “It’s breath taking—it’s like it’s real. You are taking on the role of a legislator right there in the same setting where our laws are made.”

                Williams was a major recruiter for Y and G this year, following the graduation of the students who led the revival of the program at CHS. Caleb Barkman, Tarek Arouse and Arturo Rolon set a high standard for future Jacket “Yaggers” in advancing from state to national competition in 2019.

                “I’ve felt a bit like a mom in all this,” Williams said. “I had to talk all of them into giving Youth and Government a try. And they have worked so hard and it’s awesome to see the pay off as we head to state.”

Government and debate teacher Matt Moulden has served as faculty sponsor of Youth and Government since he was first approached by interested students at the start of the 2017-18 school year.

                “It’s been great to have been a part of Youth and Government at Cleburne High School,” Moulden said. “I have seen so much hard work, passion and commitment from students who are already involved and excelling in other areas, but chose to make time for this. I’m especially proud to see us taking a group to state this year. Arturo, Caleb and Tarek wanted to see Youth and Government continue after they graduated—and it has.”


                Tapia, a sophomore and the youngest of the state qualifiers, found space in her schedule and thought debate, and participation in Youth and Government, would work for her.

                “Debate looked interesting and so did competing in UIL Academics and Y and G,” she said. “It’s been good so far. Competing at the District Conference was a good learning experience. I’ve worked very hard on the bill that I will be presenting at state.”

                Marion, who is a junior, believes the hands-on knowledge of the legislative process she is receiving through Y and G feeds into her goal of achieving an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy.

                “Going into the military, I want to understand and know what I’m fighting for,” Marion said. “I think this is giving me a good foundation for the future I want for myself. This weekend, I’ll be sitting in the senate, debating the bill I have written for passage into state law. There is no way to replicate something like that.”

                “Anybody will tell you I will pick an argument with a post fence,” Marion said. “I will also be competing in Lincoln-Douglas Debate in UIL this year. I think debate has been a good place for me. I competed in UIL Congress as a warm-up for Lincoln-Douglas and made it to regionals. And now I’m going to state as a legislator. I’m not afraid to share my opinion and I like public speaking.”

                Lynn, also a junior at CHS, points to becoming more aware of current events and what is happening in the world around her as a major benefit of Youth and Government.

                “Reese talked to me about being in it last year,” she said. “I wanted to do better in keeping up with what’s happening, and I have done that because of my involvement in Youth and Government. I like it—it’s competitive but it doesn’t stress me. We’ve also had a long time to prepare. We’ve been working on our bills and being prepared to debate and defend them since the first week of school.”

                All three “legislators” credit Williams in encouraging them to “prepare, prepare, prepare.” The team veteran told them from the start that they would be advancing to state.

                “She through us into the deep end of the Youth and Government pool, even though we weren’t sure how to swim,” Tapia said. “It’s like she told us to swim to state—and we did.”

                Williams is looking forward to what the Cleburne competitors will achieve and experience at the state capitol. She is also excited to participate in a new role following her strong performance in the legislative event in 2019.

                “I applied to be a member of the Governor’s Cabinet this year,” she said. “My role is to go in and persuade the other legislators to vote for a bill the governor wants passed. Youth and Government has been an awesome experience for me. My mom was a big encourager in my decision to get involved, and I’m glad I listened to her.”

                “This entire experience is enriching,” she said. “I know we will all look back at this trip and think, ‘that was awesome.’”



For the third consecutive year Cleburne High School will be sending competitors to the YMCA Youth and Government State Conference which began today at the state capitol. Seated, l-r, are Avery Tapia and Reese Williams, who was also a 2019 state qualifier, and back from left, faculty sponsor Matt Moulden, Hannah Marion and Madison Lynn.