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White Plains Youth Government Group Prepares for Albany

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Before Adam Jaffe and William Tunney, two White Plains High School students, present a bill they created in the state capitol next weekend, they tried it out on a local audience at the YMCA Center Thursday night.

The students are members of the YMCA Teen Youth and Government program, which introduces teenagers to do what legislators and judges do, and gives them the opportunity to present their work to their real-life counterparts in the New York State Assembly.

"The whole program is so teens can get their voices heard," said Bruno Estrada, the group advisor and a senior at Purchase College. The student group's presentation was one of two. Students from the Mamaroneck-based Hispanic Resource Centers' Civic Education Program also presented their work.

Estrada, who participated in the program as a teenager, and the students will travel to Albany March 9 through March 11, where students who chose to be legislators, like Jaffe and Tunney, will present their bills on the floor of the state capitol building.

Thursday, three sets of students presented their bills to other student civic advocacy groups, including the Hispanic Resource Center, as well as local officials in attendance. Jaffe and Tunney's bill sought to establish a process for evaluating teacher performance and create a salary scale that awards performance.

The two young men, dressed in full suit and tie, ran through all the procedures of introducing a bill, as if they were doing so in the New York State Assembly. After introduction, they fielded technical questions, then accepted a series of pro and con statements from the audience. Finally, they chairperson - Estrada - took a vote among the audience. Their bill passed unanimously.

Two other groups of students also presented bills. One sought to streamline New York's secondary education system and the other sought to develop nuclear power plants throughout the state. The latter bill, written by Richard Crescent, Dean Steuer and Peter Steward, elicited a mixed response and since the vote was taken orally, the result was inconclusive.

"This program is about the transformation of the human spirit," Estrada said.

This summer, students will also take part in the National Assembly held in North Carolina where they will similarly introduce legislation of their own dealing with national issues, Estrada said.

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