MAY 5, 1997

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Inglemoor student governs 50th Youth Legislature in Olympia

Youth Legislature Nearly 500 students from across Washington took over the capital in Olympia last week for the 50th YMCA Youth Legislature. Led by Youth Governor Kirsten Haugen, a senior at Inglemoor High School and representative from the Northshore YMCA delegation in Bothell, students experienced "hands-on" workings of the state legislature.
   Since last fall, students have been meeting in local communities across the state to study the legislative process. Participants learned to craft their own bills and debate them with their peers. More than 250 pieces of legislation were proposed at the 50th Youth Legislature, including standardized testing for establishing high school eligibility, creating teenage late night programs as curfew alternatives, and calling for mandatory labor from prison inmates.
   According to Haugen, the mechanics of creating bills is only a small part of the experience. "The program facilitates greatness, enabling us, the students of Washington State, to have an outlet to openly express our views, our beliefs, our voices. We do not represent every student in our state, we do not always agree with each other, we do not always come up with the best solutions. But we do listen to the voices we hear. And contrary to most media's belief, we actually care," said Haugen.
   Students were joined by several former Youth Governors, past governor Dan Evans, and Governor Gary Locke. The first Youth Legislature was held in New York in 1936. Washington's Youth Legislature began in the spring of 1948.
   YMCA Youth and Government is also establishing an award in the name of retired State Supreme Court Justice Robert Francis Utter to be presented to the individual who exemplified outstanding citizenship, leadership, and character in a manner that encourages the development of leadership skills and social responsibility in youth.