- David Sipos
Students Participate in Youth and Government Legislative Weekend
Amina Ford (‘23), center, gives a speech to open the conference / Credits: Wyndham Mills
Fourteen Walls students attended the D.C. Youth and Government (YAG) Legislative Weekend conference, a simulation of the D.C. lawmaking processm on March 17 and 18. Students have spent the past six months researching, drafting, and deliberating bills to improve D.C. law. In person for the first time since 2019, students met to debate and pass their legislation through committees and the Council, and see them signed by the youth mayor.
Though the Walls delegation fell short of the Outstanding Delegation distinction, students passed several bills, held leadership positions, and were named to D.C.’s delegation for the national YAG conference.
Delegates wrote bills to affect D.C. policy, and many of these bills were signed into law. These included Dima Chiavello’s (‘23) bill to eliminate dress codes in DCPS, Sebastian Reese (‘23) and Bennet Elmendorf’s (‘23) bill to give students a designated time to eat breakfast at school, Matthias Dominguez’s (‘23) bill to invest in rainwater drainage, and Amay Arora’s (‘24) bill to limit gentrification and increase affordable housing.
The Walls delegation might have been more successful, with a shot at Outstanding Delegation, but several delegates left mid-conference after tournament policy violations.
Chauncey Henry (‘23) worked hard to pass his bill, which would make Wednesdays halfdays for DCPS students. He explained that he wrote the bill “so that people could have a little break after school and have time to get their community service hours.”
Like many YAG delegates, Henry’s bill arose from personal experience. He had Wednesdays off during his sophomore year. “I was always very engaged in the second half of the week because we had a break on Wednesday. I was able to get a lot of community service hours as well,” Henry said.“If I was able to havethat chance, everyone else should be able to have that chance as well.”
He also was appointed to the YAG Board of Education, and regularly voiced his opinion on legislation. “Whenever they needed someone to say something… I alwaystried volunteering,” Henry said. For his work, Henry earned the Outstanding Statesman award at the end of the conference and was named as an alternate to the national conference, alongside Chiavello.
Though he is graduating this year, Henry hopes that the Walls YAG delegation will grow next year, partly to compete with the far larger BASIS DC delegation and partly to gain influence on committees and leadership positions.
With the exception of youth mayor, Walls students actually held all major leadership positions at Legislative Weekend: Amina Ford (‘23) chaired the City Council, James Setty (‘23) chaired the Board of Education, and Wyndham Mills (‘24) ran the Press Corps.
Setty has co-led the Walls YAG with Ford for two years, capping off four years in the program by serving as youth superintendent. “I logistically planned all the happenings… mainly I oversaw education legislation that came in, I gave my opinion on those,” Setty said of his role.
He spoke positively ofWalls’ performance at legislative weekend, saying “I feel satisfied, a lot of our bills passed, we got some awards.” But Setty is graduating this year, and hopes Walls will continue its streak of success next year. “I hope they keep doing well… growing [the Walls program] would be nice,” he added.
This was also Setty’s first in-person conference as the pandemic canceled his first during his freshman year and made two others virtual. “Debating in person was a much better experience; everything ran smoother,” Setty said. “It was more rewarding.”