As a McKinley Senior High School senior with two terms in the YMCA Youth Legislature under his belt, Maxwell Martin is as comfortable talking about the issues that affect his state as he is the issues that affect his college entrance applications.
“It’s a great program,” Martin said. “It teaches you a lot about how the political system works, about how bills get passed.”
Martin was at the state Capitol on March 13 as part of the spring conference of the Youth Legislature, along with hundreds of high school students from around the state, said Eddrick Martin, state director for the program.
This is the 53rd year the program has been operating, he said. In fact, Eddrick Martin was a senator 20 years ago when he was a student at Southern University Lab School.
Program participation depends on each school, Eddrick Martin said. Schools can send as many students as they can manage to see the process in action, he said. At the club level, Youth Legislature programs across the state give students the tools they need to learn and practice both government functions and parliamentary procedure, but to be elected to office, students must present an original bill for vote.
There are also judicial and international components to the program, he said.
Current Governor Folasade Lapite, a Neville High School senior from Monroe, started her involvement in the program through debate club at her school and served as a legislator her first year, then later served as a Supreme Court justice.
One day, she hopes to study medicine and perhaps use that knowledge to work on global health policies, she said.
State officeholders meet once a month in Baton Rouge, Eddrick Martin said, and participate in planning the conferences. “They do most of the work, I just offer guidance,” he said.
Meanwhile, Maxwell Martin said the skills he has learned at the conferences will help him no matter what career he chooses.
Researching the bills, he said, made him more aware of issues affecting the people in his state.
His first year as a youth legislator, Maxwell Martin introduced an equal pay for women bill, and saw it through to passage. “It won best bill in the house, so I’m really proud of that,” he said.
Last school year, Martin helped a team that created the Heroes at Home bill, a measure that would provide housing and job assistance to returning military veterans if needed as a means of transitioning back to civilian life. That, he said, won best bill in the Senate that year.
For the December session, Martin expanded his knowledge of governance through his role as secretary general of the Model United Nations, and this year, he’s a senate delegate again, showing the ropes to a newly elected legislator and classmate from McKinley.
For information about the program, or to learn how to participate, visit the program’s Web site, www.layouthandgovernment.org.