Ravens Recap and Reflect on Their YAG 2024 Experiences

  • Voices
Ravens Recap and Reflect on Their YAG 2024 Experiences
Youth & Government Participants

Members of the delegation — 73 students strong — explore what they did and what they learned during this powerful four-day experiential learning opportunity.


A delegation of 73 Ravens, our largest-ever group, descended on the YMCA Youth & Government Annual Conference Feb. 15-18 and continued our school’s tradition of excellence in the YAG program. Funded by a civic engagement grant from the Pope Foundation, our students joined over 800 high school students from all over North Carolina to explore the legislative and judicial processes within a mock state government. In the coming sections, hear from our delegates their thoughts regarding their experience at the YAG conference.

Clockwise from top left: Grant Corkum ’24, Sundeth Donthi ’25 and Ethan Silverman ’25; Annabelle Pritchard ’26, Leah Atasoy ’25, Sofia Herbert ’24, NRCA delegate Shir Inbari, Audrey Stock ’24 and Arabella Mitchell ’25 with the Mock Trial Judge; the entire Ravenscroft delegation

Legislative Recap

Ravenscroft delegates in the House not only wrote bills and presented them, but we also connected with everyone there, no matter the delegation. New friends were made and new perspectives were found, with Randi Ogan ’25 saying, “At YAG we had the opportunity to interact with other schools and hear from people with different perspectives than our own.” Jack Oates ’26 recalled that “we connected through a shared passion for learning and government,” leading to unique relationships that could not be formed anywhere else. Jackson Bubar ’25 also felt that he was able to support people throughout the YAG conference, saying “I was able to make a bill with people who I was friends with as well as helping those who I had never met before.” We were excited to have four of our House bills reach the Governor’s Cabinet, the farthest a bill can go at the conference, so congratulations to the four groups mentioned below who achieved the feat! Here is the full bill book of the 171 bills submitted for the conference.

House bills:

  • HB 43 Taylor McMichael ’26, Katie Barger ’26: strong bill that finished in committees

  • HB 44 Frank Hassell ’25, Nico Gaddini ’25: advanced to Governor’s Cabinet

  • HB 46 Max Lubsen ’24, Daniel Kastick ’25: signed into law by the Youth Governor

  • HB 51 Grant Hildreth ’26, Brandon Williams ’25: advanced through committees and first chamber

  • HB 55 Edouard Legris ’25, Riley Lawton ’25, Morgan Riley ’25: signed into law by the Youth Governor

  • HB 58 Avery Perry ’26, Cate Mills ’26-: trong bill that finished in committees

  • HB 59 Jin Jeong ’25, Cesar Bassim ’25, Victor Qi ’25: strong bill that finished in committees

  • HB 60 Sydney Parrish ’26, Anna Stone ’26, Annabelle Pritchard ’26: advanced to Governor’s Cabinet

  • HB 65 Jackson Bubar ’25, Matt Ulicny ’26, Jack Oates ’26: advanced through committees and first chamber

  • HB 66 Randi Ogan ’25, Mia Atasoy ’25, Brooke Steinmann ’25: advanced through committees

We had an amazing time at YAG participating in the Senate: iIt was challenging to prepare and debate; however, it was very beneficial. We all took time over the months to collaborate and create our individual bills and arguments. As we participated at YAG, and experienced fatigue from the tough schedule, many Ravenscroft Senate bills continued to prevail. Besides the rigorous schedule, students such as Jai Gupta ’25 enjoyed his experience and meeting new people: “With other delegations, I managed to make friends with people sitting besides me —  especially when debating for each other’s bills. In my own delegation, I was well supported by my peers at Ravenscroft and had an amazing time at every meal, walk or event!” In addition to making new friends, bonds were reinforced with other Ravenscroft students, as Anna Haywood ’24 noted: “YAG has helped me connect with people in other grades at Ravenscroft that I did not know before.” This program helped reinforce the community aspect of Ravenscroft and improve relationships amongst students in our community. 

Senate bills:

  • SB 47 Nydia Davis ’25, Luke Thomann ’25, Deanna Bennett ’25: strong bill that finished in committees

  • SB 52 Anna Haywood ’24, Nolan Coole ’24, AJ Peterson ’24: signed into law by the Youth Governor

  • SB 55 Jai Gupta ’25, Arianna Shirak ’24, Leven McConahay ’25: signed into law by the Youth Governor

Also serving in the Legislative program were several students in key legislative support positions: Emily Capell ’25 and Anika Bhatia Villarama ’25 as lobbyists, Matthew Madewell ’26 and George Bianchi ’26 as budget analysts, Luke Thomann ’25 as a committee chair, Deanna Bennett ’25 as a clerk, and Nydia Davis ’25 and Valerie Margraf ’26 as floor leaders. Each role is essential to the legislative process and a great position to pursue for returning legislators at future conferences. We developed leadership, speaking, and socialization skills. We gained confidence by expressing our opinions during activities such as debate! We also learned so much about how our government works, inspiring us to make a political impact. Nydia Davis ’25 said, “I have learned more about how the government operates and how there is no ‘right’ answer to things in the government!” “We met so many people from diverse backgrounds from all around the state that I never would have met otherwise!” Valerie Margraf ’26 said. “I met so many new people from different schools around the state and reconnected with friends I made last year!” We also became more familiar with people within our delegation by playing games, eating and attending nightly delegation meetings. It was great to see Emily Capell ’25 named the senior lobbyist for next year’s conference.

Overall, students in the Legislative group echoed this thought from Deanna Bennett ’25: “YAG is such a great way to meet a ton of people from completely different backgrounds! It is a great place to form lifelong friendships and connections beyond Ravenscroft.”

Clockwise from top left: Abby Dix ’24 and Chris Speranza ’25; Joshua Ward ’26 (standing); Frank Hassell ’25 and Nico Gaddini ’25; Nyla Moore ’24, Leah Atasoy ’25, Arabella Mitchell ’25 and Sofia Herbert ’24

Judicial Recap

The Judicial program of YAG helps build a specific portfolio for students who want to go into various political and legal fields. If someone’s goal is to be an attorney, then YAG provides plenty of necessary experience in Mock Trial and the Court of Appeals programs to show the person what it’s actually like to be under pressure in a simulated case. Nikki Gupta ’26 mentioned how Mock Trial helped her “learn better ways to adapt to unexpected situations,” which was echoed by Cashier Brooks ’26, who found that Mock Trial forced him to “think of arguments on the fly during the trial.” Furthermore, the Judicial program encourages students to go out of their comfort zone and promote public speaking and collaboration outside of our community. As Sofia Herbert ’24 noted, “One of the best parts of YAG is seeing the talent of other teams, learning from them and making friends across the state.” Everyone who participates loves it and is able to take something away from it, and that’s why there are so many recurring students who come back year after year to the Court of Appeals and Mock Trial programs. 

As participants in the Mock Trial and Court of Appeals, we had a major presence again this year. Preparing as attorneys and witnesses in a trial, we served on multiple teams and even competed against one another in the preliminary rounds of the competition. Grey Davidian ’24, Sarah Enochs ’25, Cashier Brooks ’26, Lihn Tran ’26, Ava Lubsen ’26 and Arabella Mitchell ’26 experienced their first Mock Trial, and Leah Atasoy ’25, Tyler Artinger ’25, Colin Burns ’24, Tessa Lee ’24, Lilla Megyeri ’25, Nina Sharkady ’25, Audrey Stock ’24, Ethan MacLaren ’25, Joshua Ward ’26 and Nikki Gupta ’26 returned to compete again. We were fortunate to have a team of nearly all Ravenscroft delegates make the Mock Trial All-Star Round, a competition of the two best-performing teams from the preliminary rounds. Sofia Herbert, Leah Atasoy, Audrey Stock, Ava Lubsen and Arabella Mitchell edged out their opponents in the championship round to be crowned All-Star Champions for 2024.

Three students tackled the unique demands of appellate law in the Court of Appeals by writing and defending briefs on Case 1 and Case 2 with impressive results while arguing in front of several panels of justices. Sundesh Donthi ’25, Ethan Silverman ’25 and Grant Corkum ’24 advanced to the All-Star round and emerged as the Case 1 Runners-up.

Though we were in multiple Judicial programs, we found a place “to expand your social competence and confidence in profound and unique ways you wouldn’t otherwise be able to,” as Grey Davidian said.

Officers and Accolades

One aspect of YAG that makes it so special is its leadership opportunities, including officer roles and the Governor’s Cabinet.  

Three Ravenscroft students were campaigning for officer roles this year: Deanna Bennett ’25 for Presiding Officer, Ethan Silverman ’25 for Associate Justice and Leah Atasoy ’25 for District Attorney. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to pursue office in a statewide program, so all deserve applause and praise for their efforts! Kudos to Leah Atasoy and Ethan Silverman on their successful campaigns for District Attorney and Associate Justice. This experience taught us the importance of campaigning and how it can influence our actions as leaders. Ethan stated, “I learned so much about campaigning and voting in politics. Through campaigning, I figured out what I like to see in candidates and how I can make an informed vote in an election.” Each of us had to go out and talk to people we had never met, trying to convince them why we should be elected. Leah explained, “I had such a great time campaigning with the other candidates and can’t wait to work with the 2024-25 Officer Team!”

Nyla Moore ’24 and Shrutav Deshpande ’26 had the opportunity to have a different view of YAG as they served in their own leadership roles both prior to and during the conference. Congratulations to them both, Nyla as District Attorney and Shrutav as Forum Speaker Pro Tem, for serving as YAG State Officers this year. Nyla reflected on her experience, saying, “I have been a part of YAG since my freshman year. I experienced YAG online during my freshman and sophomore year, but nothing compares to the in-person experience. I was able to connect with people of various backgrounds. Working with these individuals allowed me to form friendships based on common goals and interests. I will forever be grateful to YAG for allowing me to make these lasting connections.” Her counterpart as an officer, Shrutav found that “working as a Freshman Pro Tem allowed me to work with many other fantastic officers and be able to appreciate all the effort that goes into YAG behind the scenes. I learned how to trust my colleagues and be a better leader overall.” 

Another facet of the YAG Leadership Team is the Governor’s Cabinet, and we had Jane McNeill ’24 and Ethan McMinn ’24 as representatives in this small, select group of senior delegates. Despite their having served in other YAG roles, both said serving in “Gov Cab” was enlightening. Ethan said, "Seeing all the bills in committee, then chambers, and then end up in Gov Cab altogether gave me greater insight into how the process worked.” Jane, who had experienced Governor’s Cabinet as a bill author last year, found that “Governor’s Cabinet is an empowering experience because you have a say in the passage of a bill.” 

We are excited to see Leah and Ethan serve on next year’s YAG Officer Team and hope to have more Ravens follow them as leaders in the future.

Clockwise from top left: Victor Qi ’25, Jin Jeong ’25 and Cesar Bassim ’25; Nolan Coole ’24 and AJ Peterson ’24; Riley Lawton ’25, Edouard Legris ’25 and Morgan Riley ’25; Anna Haywood ’24 and Jane McNeill ’24


We had more delegates in Media than in any previous year, and we contributed tremendous work to the overall coverage of the conference. Landon Koerschner ’26 was our lone Broadcast Media delegate and recorded/produced multiple video segments. Austin Greene ’25, Kate Krouse ’26 and Sammey Malik ’26 were our first-ever Print Media delegates and contributed multiple articles to the official YAG Blog. Kate shared, “YAG media brought me and many other students together, and we bonded over our passions for writing and made new friendships.” Taylor Gregory ’26 served as a Social Media delegate and helped with the NC YAG Instagram account (@ncyouthandgov), and she learned an important lesson from her experience: “Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and apply for a leadership position.” Taylor followed her advice and was selected as the 2025 YAG Conference Social Media Editor! Many of the conference photos on the NC YAG Instagram account were captured by our Photo delegates Abby Dix ’24 and Chris Speranza ’25. Following the conference, broadcast delegate Landon had this to say about what he learned: “Take advantage of your opportunities. Being one of the youngest, and newest, media broadcasters there, I had to make my work count.” Ravenscroft’s additions to the Media Team this year proved to create great impacts on our delegates. 

The Road Ahead

With the conference finished, we turn our attention to spring and summer opportunities for civic engagement and to next year’s conference. The YAG State Office will select students for additional summer opportunities, including the Conference on National Affairs and the National Judicial Competition, the national legislative and judicial versions of our state-level programs run by the YMCA. 

The official YAG Club activities cease until the fall, but we hope that the energy and excitement of the YAG conference experience compels our students to stay engaged and active in our democracy through learning and action year-round!


The Youth and Government program at Ravenscroft continues to grow! Read the Jan. 31, 2024, news story Ninth-Graders Enjoy On-Campus YAG Experience to learn even more about the ways our students are getting the most out of this opportunity.