The Spring 2021 YMCA Maine Youth and Government program wrapped up this past weekend (April 9, 10, 11). This year’s session, historically unique, occurred via videoconference, as pandemic restrictions prevented Maine high schoolers from gathering at the Maine State Capitol in Augusta for the model state program. Instead, students found themselves logging in from their respective locales across Maine to engage with one another on the pressing public policy matters of the day. Students worked to convince their peers of the merits of their own individually written bills, and the political process was front and center, as students found their voice, engaged in campaigning, learned the art of compromise, and identified ways to improve the communities around them.
MSSM’s 2021 delegation, totaling fourteen students, was especially active in the weekend’s events. And given that the majority of the MSSM delegation was on campus, students spread out across multiple rooms on two floors in the academic building to simulate separate committee rooms and legislative chambers, thereby ensuring opportunities for MSSMers to work collaboratively in person while also following covid protocols. Seeing students moving up and down the hallways over the weekend and engaging in debate and collaboration with their peers provided much enthusiasm and excitement for all.
Of particular note from this past weekend, MSSM’s own Marcello Santomenna will serve as the 79th YMCA Youth Governor of the State of Maine following his election to serve as head of next year’s program. In his campaign speech on Saturday night, Santomenna stressed the importance of compromise, compassionate leadership, and adept policy making as foundational priorities for his administration. As youth governor, Santomenna will attend the YMCA Youth Governor’s Conference, representing the Maine YMCA, and will serve as Governor for this fall’s Youth and Government program where he will be responsible for putting forth a legislative agenda for participants to consider. Additional responsibilities will include working with the Maine YMCA program director in planning the fall 2021 program and aiding in outreach for the Maine YMCA on related civic-engagement opportunities. Congratulations, Governor Santomenna!
Also, on Sunday, outgoing Governor and MSSMer Martin Brozman completed his record length term-in-office following his election in the fall of 2019 prior to the pandemic delaying the start of what would have been the fall 2020 program. Governor Brozman, in weekend remarks, spoke about the human spirit and the power of resilience, as students have faced new and unusual challenges in the past year. Brozman noted that students have shown perseverance and adaptation in the face of extraordinary challenges while remaining positive and committed to doing good work. Brozman vetoed eight bills to close out the weekend while also advancing his own legislative priorities, which included the passage of a “right to repair” law, a school start time law, and a law to promote voting accessibility.
To close out the weekend, MSSM’s Peter Butera received the Maine YMCA Youth and Government’s “Best Bill Award.” Butera’s bill, “A New Comprehensive Plan for Combating Addiction in Maine,” revised the penalties for some drug offenses to be treated as civil rather than criminal matters.
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