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Fridley Public Schools
Inside view of MN State Capitol

Fridley students participated in a simulation of the Minnesota state government at the annual YMCA statewide Youth In Government (YIG) conference held January 5-8. More than a thousand students grades 8-12, including 45 Fridley High School students and 23 Fridley Middle School students, became legislators, lawyers, judges, lobbyists, media representatives, or cabinet members running a state model government in the Capitol Complex. High school students participated in the full experience of the YIG conference, while 8th grade students got a sample of the program and were led by college students who had already been a part of YIG.

“This program develops leadership, civic, and public speaking skills,” said Steve Holt, Fridley High School’s YIG advisor. He added that the conference is entirely student run, with adults there only to help out if needed. 

Student Mars Bright

High school students are given the opportunity to run for office in YIG as well as bring issues to light with the hope of having their bills passed. This year 9th grade student Kale Holst ran against other 9th and 10th grade students for Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals and won. Additionally, 11th grade student Mars Bright won Most Outstanding Member of the National Issues Forum. 

“What I love most about participating in Youth in Government is getting to learn about current problems that are going on in the state that I wasn’t aware of, as well as then finding solutions for these problems,” said sophomore Yahira Barreto-Paredes, who participated as a member of the Governor’s Cabinet as the Commissioner of Transportation.

“It's a great way to learn about the three branches of government,” said Fridley senior Veronique Kolibe-Gnamikou. “As someone that lives in the US, I believe it's very important to learn how your government runs, its laws and know your civic duties.”

As an advisor, Holt overlooks recruiting, communication, meeting with student leaders, and organizing social gatherings. While Holt lamented that COVID-19 impacted the participation rate of Fridley students, he said it’s encouraging the numbers are starting to recuperate. 

Along with Holt, senior Nate Thorp, who is Chair of the Steering Committee, has been helping to seek more student involvement. “The program means a lot to me and I want to have as many students join as possible,” Thorp said. “I have worked very hard for the past three years to help the club recover from the loss of numbers and want that growth to continue after I'm gone as well.”

Holt observed how positive and supportive the Fridley students were with one another during the conference. For example, students shared their celebrations and accomplishments with one another throughout the conference through a group text app.

Along with Holt, the field trip wouldn’t have been possible without FMS teacher and YIG advisor Aaron Cuthbert, FHS teacher and Model UN advisor Jessica Schuette and chaperones Amy Engler, Jada Probasco, and Therese Selin. Also appreciated is the support from the Fridley Lions Club, Northwest Suburban Integration School District and the Ann Bancroft Foundation who helped students financially be able to attend the conference.

Junior Mike LeRoy

Students that are looking to get involved this year can register for Model UN, which is coming up this spring, or look to join YIG next year. 

“You meet so many people. People that look different from you, who have different backgrounds from you, live in different areas than you and have different opinions,” Kolibe-Gnamikou said. “I feel YIG allows you to be a more open-minded person and aware of other opinions and views.”

Read more about current junior Mike LeRoy’s success with unanimously passing a bill at last years YIG Conference:

Photos courtesy of Gysland Photography