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Ninth-Graders Enjoy On-Campus YAG Experience


Ninth-grade Youth and Government participants and faculty sponsors in the Olander Center 

With interest in the Upper School’s Youth and Government program continuing to grow, this year the club’s advisors offered something new: an on-campus conference experience for the 19 ninth-graders who are in their first year of participation. The event took place on Saturday, Dec. 2, giving the students the opportunity to put their month of preparation into action.

Youth and Government is a nationwide civic program supported by the YMCA that prepares high school students for moral and political leadership. YAG participants enjoy the opportunity to learn about and experience government policies firsthand, with a goal of understanding how to be changemakers and improve their communities. Since 2017, as funding from the John William Pope Foundation has helped defray the cost of attending the statewide conference, student involvement in the program has increased significantly each year. 

“Everyone did a fantastic job in their first YAG experience,” Co-Director of College Counseling Sean Kennedy, who sponsors the club with Shelley Brown and Alex Mahon, said. “Their seriousness of purpose and confidence were impressive and bode well for their future in the YAG program at Ravenscroft.”

Students working in the Legislative group who had researched and prepared their own original bills presented them at the event — first in front of their peers in the legislative chamber and then before the Governor’s Cabinet, made up of Ravenscroft faculty and alumni. They also prepared questions and debated opinions on the other bills under consideration. 

Clockwise from top left: Oren Kantor ’27 offers his opinion during legislative debate; Azera LaGuerre ’27 and Jaeden Jordan ’27 conferring during trial; Matthew Milburn-Pyle ’27 and Trey Messier ’27 deliver their bill presentation; Ella Smith '23 and Harper Harrell '27 discuss bill presentation strategies.

The Legislative groups and their bill topics were:

  • Matthew Milburn-Pyle ’27 and Trey Messier ’27: Unemployment Reform

  • Claudia Lloyd ’27, Charlotte Hinson ’27 and Madison Rankin ’27: Test-Optional College Admissions

  • Oren Kantor ’27, Cavan Sheehan ’27, Damien Luciano ’27 and Logan Lee ’27: Four-Day Work Week

  • Corrine Carter ’27 and Chris Nickolas ’27: Later Public School Start Times

  • Harper Harrell ’27 and Emma Hessler ’27: Public School Free Lunches

Students were supported in their work by Upper School faculty members Mark Laskowski and Melanie Spransy, alums Jenna Seidenfrau ’23 and Ella Smith ’23 and current YAG students Emily Capell ’25, Shrutav Deshpande ’26 and Ethan McMinn ’24.

In the Mock Trial group, two legal teams — one prosecution, one defense — argued the trial of Minnesota v. Max Paulson. They prepared and delivered opening and closing statements and direct- and cross-examined multiple witnesses before a real judge. Each youth attorney gained valuable trial experience that they can carry forward in the YAG Mock Trial or Court of Appeals programs in future years.

The Mock Trial teams were:

  • Azera LaGuerre ’27, Amelia Cafaro ’27 and Jaeden Jordan ’27

  • Tanya Gehlot ’27, George Haralambakis ’27 and Naveen Kumar ’27

Kennedy noted that the Mock Trial simulation would not have been possible without the presence of Ravenscroft parent and North Carolina District Court Judge Woofer Davidian and alum Donald Fuller ’17, who were integral in creating the trial experience. Supporting the Mock Trial students before and during the trial were YAG veterans Tessa Lee ’24, Leah Atasoy ’25 and Ethan MacLaren ’25. Additional thanks go out to Upper School teacher Tomeiko Carter and Henry Zhang ’25 for capturing photos from the conference.  

“The students who participated in the ninth-grade YAG Conference are a dedicated and determined bunch,” Mahon said. “I had the privilege of working closely with students in the Mock Trial group and was able to see great tenacity, perseverance and an overall dedication to improving their practice. I know that students who participated, in both the Legislative and Mock Trial groups, will continue to shine both in upcoming YAG conferences and also in their academics.”

“I was proud to see our ninth-grade YAG students showcase their strengths with such a high level of excitement and professionalism,” Brown added. “From their success this year, not only will they be well-prepared to shine at the annual conference next year, but they will also be leaders who guide their peers in our delegation and other YAG delegations across North Carolina.”

Students in 10th through 12th grades will attend the statewide conference in Raleigh in February.