Photo provided by Sarah Procopio -- Baton Rouge Magnet High School senior Sarah Procopio, center, with Lyndsey Speer, youth governor from Oklahoma, left; and Barton Christmas, youth governor of Kentucky; in front of the East Wing of the White House during the YMCA Youth Governors Conference in Washington, D.C.

Baton Rouge Magnet High School senior Sarah Procopio honed her leadership skills and represented Louisiana during the YMCA Youth Governors Conference June 15-19 in Washington, D.C.

Procopio, 17, was one of 32 students serving as governors of their statewide Youth and Government program run by the YMCA to attend the conference.

She was elected in February to serve as governor at the next YMCA Youth Legislature session in Louisiana.

Procopio is a member of the Legislative Youth Advisory Council, and president of her school’s youth and government club.

The conference’s focus was on servant leadership — a style of leadership that recognizes elected officials are there to perform a service to the people who elected them, Procopio said.

During the trip, Procopio took part in a community service project at the Vietnam War Memorial and visited the White House, Dwight D. Einsenhower building and Arlington National Cemetery to lay the wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier.

She said visiting the Washington Memorial at midnight with other youth governors was a highlight of the conference.

Speakers at the conference included Deputy Secretary of Transportation Victor Mendez; Ajay Bhatt, attorney with the Department at Homeland Security; Mark Mioduski, with Cornerstone Government Affairs; and White House social secretary Deesha Dyer. Several high-level governmental staffers, lobbyists and other servant leaders spoke to and visited with the students.

Youth and Government is a national program of the YMCA that involves thousands of teens nationwide in state-organized, model-government programs, the YMCA website says. The program gives students an opportunity to “immerse themselves in experiential civic engagement and to, quite literally, practice democracy.”

Teens meet in their local Youth and Government groups throughout the year to discuss and debate issues that affect residents of their state and to propose legislation. The program culminates with teens serving as delegates at their state conference, debating bills on the floor of the legislature.