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White Plains YMCA Youth Debate Issues Albany-Style

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Since October, Dean Steuer, 17, has spent every Thursday crafting a bill proposing a nuclear power plant in New York with help from fellow White Plains high schoolers in the YMCA's Youth and Government program . The senior got "used to wearing a suit" and found his way around Albany while pitching it this weekend.

"It was a pretty nerve-racking experience for me. I got into it basically because they told me all these crazy stories. Then it came to Albany," Steuer said of presenting the bill to students in student and government programs across New York in the state Senate building.

His bill narrowly failed a split-room, however, Steuer said its contentiousness sparked a good debate.

"The idea was to provide New York State with a cleaner energy source that's more environmentally friendly," he said. "I was surprised. I thought nobody would support it, but it was a split-room."

The White Plains team’s other bills, including instituting a test in eighth-grade that dictates whether students attend a vocational school or college-prep school and a new multi-component teacher evaluation system, also failed to pass. Learning to draft a bill in the proper New York format and having a copy sent to an Assemblyman was still valuable, according to Adam Jaffe.

"'Click it or tick it' was a Youth and Government bill," said Jaffe, a senior. "There is a connection with what we do and the real world. A lot of people who go through the program end up in elected offices."

Across the capitol, Michelle Reichman earned a "justice exemplar" title and was selected to be an alternate for the YMCA's Youth Conference on National Affairs while arguing that a woman accused of killing her husband deserved a retrial based on new evidence.

"They would just interrupt you and ask you tons of questions to see if you can argue your case," Reichman, a junior, said of presenting her position to six or seven justices in the Youth and Government's judiciary branch. "There's pressure because of the rapid speed of the questions, but it was really fun and you get to be in the actual court."

Senior Brittany Sutton said it wasn't any easier being a justice. Despite staying up until 3 a.m. writing decisions, Sutton said she enjoyed reading actual supporting cases and judging arguments.

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