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Fast-forward a couple of decades and you might just see some current Marco Island seventh grade students serving in the Florida Legislature.

That observation comes directly from the present governor of the Florida YMCA Youth In Government, Terrell White, a junior at Dunbar High School.

White was reacting to a recent session at the Marco Island Charter Middle School, during which seventh grade students became state senators and house representatives to debate various bills.

"They came up with some good, well-written bills," said White, who is Cornell University-bound and himself already interested in a career in politics.

"One of the bills was about raising the minimum wage, but one kid said that could cause inflation. I was impressed. I didn't think a kid that age could come up with that."

Ryan Cialone, a Barron Collier senior who presided over some of the debates, was equally impressed.

"There were some really strong debaters," he said, later telling the group he hoped they would continue to show interest in Youth in Government and perhaps at some stage hold office while still at school.

He added he'd like to see a strong Marco Island Chapter emerge, considering that Barron Collier is the only sizeable one in the county.

Cialone too, aims at law or government.

Asked what she took away from the session, student Jordan Rios said she realized that getting a bill passed is very difficult.

"A lot of people have to agree on the subject, and there's a lot of debating about whether it's good or bad," Rios said. "It has to do with the importance for our country, I guess."

Bills introduced for debate included tackling the opioid crisis; handicap extensions to benefit people with disabilities, and gun control.

Key organizers of the session included civics teacher Patsy Garcia and also Sam Ingalls, who works on the Youth in Government programs for the Sky Family YMCA in Lee County as well as the Greater Naples YMCA and the Greater Marco Family YMCA.

Garcia & Ingalls prepared the students for the session a full week beforehand. Garcia said she was pleased how well the majority of the students had performed in their roles.

According to web information, the Florida Constitution mandates a bicameral state legislature, consisting of a Florida Senate of 40 members and a Florida House of Representatives of 120 members. The two bodies meet in the Florida State Capitol.

House members serve for two-year terms, while Senate members serve staggered four-year terms, with 20 Senators up for election every two years.

The legislature's session is part-time, meeting for 60-day regular sessions annually.

For more on the Marco Y's wide variety of programs and activities for adults and youth, visit marcoymca.org or call 394-3144.

 

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