Southampton Town Seeks Youth for Model Government Program

Southampton Town Hall

Southampton Town is establishing a chapter of one of the oldest model government programs in the nation, and is seeking high school students — not just from Southampton Town — to participate.

On October 3, the town’s Youth Bureau will host the first meeting of Youth and Government, which was started more than 100 years ago by the YMCA, according to Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni. Southampton is the first town on the East End to develop a chapter.

“Their motto is, ‘Democracy must be learned by every generation,’ and I believe that wholeheartedly. This program teaches students research skills, speaking skills, debate skills and Robert’s Rules of Order,” said Mr. Schiavoni, who saw the group in action when he was a teacher at Center Moriches High School, which has a Youth and Government chapter.

The group will meet weekly on Wednesdays, preparing for the annual conference in Albany, where students who act in various simulated roles — governor, legislators, judges and more — will practice governance on the floor of the actual New York State Assembly chamber or Senate chamber. The Southampton chapter will focus on legislature, Mr. Schiavoni said.

“It’s fun stuff. It’s challenging,” he said. “Students will be thinking of bills that they will work up and present and practice leading up to the state conference. By the time they are called up, they will have presented their bill multiple times.”

The students’ bills are then passed on to their actual state legislators for review — and some have become state law. For instance, according to the YMCA, New York State’s “right turn on red” rule was originally the idea of a Youth and Government participant.

The first meeting will be held Wednesday, October 3, at 6 p.m. at Southampton Town Hall at 116 Hampton Road.