On Wednesday, March 24, several Baylor Middle School students got out their laptops, iPads, and phones to log onto what they had been preparing for over the last few weeks: the middle school Tennessee Youth in Government conference, held annually by the YMCA.
The delegates worked mostly in groups of two or three, presenting their bills to dozens of students and asking question after question on others’ pieces of legislation. However, instead of being held in person, with delegates raising their placards and addressing a room of people all together, this year’s conference was held virtually, with delegates instead raising their hands on Zoom.
Seventh grade Baylor student Shanina Dong '26 feels that the conference was “definitely different from last year, but it was still really fun,” with her favorite part being “getting to debate other schools’ bills.” She and her teammate, Piper Ryan '26, chose to write their bill about raising teacher salaries, seeing as “teachers work really hard and deserve to be paid more.” Both Dong and Ryan received the "Best Delegate" award, along with Alisha Chandra '25, Benjamin Daniel '25, Julia Gardner '25, Matilda Joels '27, Carlos Keates-Baleeiro '27, and Owen McKenna '27. The award is given to students who exhibit the following qualities: a “cooperative and respectful approach to legislation and peers, use of proper parliamentary procedure, [a] positive attitude, excellent communication, leadership by example with regard to conference rules and regulations, bill submitted by conference deadline, [and] behavior in keeping with the YMCA core values of honesty, caring, respect, and responsibility” (YMCA).
Delegates Chandra, Gardner, Hemphill, and McKenna also all received the "Best Bill" award, which is given to students that present bills which align with the following qualities: “feasibility, statewide impact, correct written format, evidence of research, submission by conference deadline, and in keeping with the YMCA core values of honesty, caring, respect, and responsibility” (YMCA). According to Dong, the delegates prepared by “practicing debating [their] bills with other Baylor students in YIG every Friday morning during Extra Help. They would also meet on Saturdays, and Paige [Ryan ‘21], Sophie [Peirano ‘21], and Sophia [Baleeiro ‘23] would give [the delegates] feedback and [let them know what they] needed to work on or research more.”
Baylor students Connie Ni '22, Fatima Sohani '22, Sophie Peirano '21, and Paige Ryan '21 chaired the conference, meaning they controlled the flow of debate and guided the students as they presented their bills, asked questions, and addressed the House and Senate floors. Ni expresses that “chairing for MSYIG was really enjoyable, and although being on Zoom made it a little harder to communicate with the other chairs, we still managed to get it flowing smoothly.” Her favorite part of chairing “was watching the delegates grow more confident as the conference went on, voicing their questions and thoughts.” Ultimately, despite a virtual setting, the Baylor delegates’ hard work paid off, ending the debate season with a successful and award-filled conference.