A delegation of 21 Cleburne High School students will be among the competitors at Saturday’s YMCA Youth and Government District Conference.
A trio of veterans and a well-trained group of first-time “Yaggers” will be involved in judicial, legislative and media events in Cleburne’s second year of competition, following a 20-year hiatus. In the 2017 revival of Youth and Government at CHS, every participant advanced to state, reflecting Cleburne’s winning heritage of the 70s and 80s, which included election to top legislative offices.
Youth and Government describes itself as a “laboratory in citizenship and government,” in providing students with opportunities for involvement in the democratic process.
Competing in Appellate, Mock Trial, Legislative or Media events will be Tarek Arouse, Arturo Rolon, Caleb Barkman, Lily Edwards, Keaton Howe, Yemi Tamez, Mason Hill, Hailey Traweek, Cameron Horton, Jack Bennett, Sierra Pugh, Chris Wallace, Nardasha Boaz, Rebekah Lemus, Smith Boles, Reese Williams, Andrew Slimp, Emily Davis, Tabitha Lane, Sarah Roy and Merit Davis. Their Youth and Government Sponsor is CHS government, economics and debate teacher Matt Moulden.
Before they ever experienced their first District Youth and Government conference, Arouse, Rolon and Barkman, then juniors, vowed they would be back in 2018. The student organization aligned with the debate skills they were honing as UIL Academics competitors, and exploration and involvement in the legislative and judicial processes intrigued them.
“We just fell in love with Youth and Government,” Arouse said. “It’s fun to do. Even writing all those briefs was easy because I enjoyed it so much.”
Arouse, who finished in the top ten at state in Appellate Team competition, is now leaning toward “something” in law as a career.
“It was such a fantastic surprise to finish that high at state as a first-timer,” he said. “I have discovered a greater interest in government and law, and can attribute that to Youth and Government.”
Rolon, a fellow returning senior, will be competing with Arouse in the Appellate Team event. An avid participant in a variety of speech and debate contests since the ninth grade, he is comfortable preparing, presenting, defending—and arguing—a case, an idea or a point.
“When we went to district last year, I knew we were there to learn,” he said. “And then Tarek and I wound up as district runner-ups. Competing at the state capitol was very interesting, seeing all those students interested in law and government policy. Even though we came close to advancing to nationals, we are coming back this year with a better idea of what the judges are looking for.”
Barkman, who is a second generation member of Cleburne Youth and Government, is also among the veterans in the program and will be competing again in the Appellate Team event.
“I learned so much at state,” he said. “It was an eye-opening experience. I’m competing with Jack Bennett this year and we want to make it to nationals. Our team barely missed the cutoff last time and I admit to some hunger in wanting to advance this year.”
“It felt really good last year to see that all the hours we put in were so successful,” he said. “We are also appreciative of the support Youth and Government has received from the community.”
In addition to their desire to revive the program at their campus, there is also a goal to sustain it as members graduate. Rolon, Arouse and Barkman have waged a three-man campaign to expand interest and participation. Their mission has been accomplished according to Arouse, who says they have gone from “the lonely few” to a Y & G family.
Tamez is among the juniors new to the student organization. She will be competing as a lawyer in the mock trial event.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s all worth it,” she said. “I sound smarter, I’ve improved my research skills and I feel more confident.”
Hill, her fellow attorney in the event, said he chose to get involved in a desire to try something new.
“I heard a lot of people talking about it and they said it was really fun,” he said. “It’s really gotten me stronger in taking notes and writing essays.”
The Cleburne “Yaggers” have typically averaged 15 hours a week outside the classroom in preparing for the District conference. It’s not been easy, as the participants are also involved in other extracurricular activities and have schedules filled with advanced, college-level courses. Several hold down part-time jobs.
“It’s also been tough for the seniors in facing college application deadlines,” Arouse said. “Odds are you have been seeing Cleburne Yaggers at Starbucks on the weekends. We feel very prepared going into the contest. We have a lot of optimism.”
Moulden is pleased with the work put in by Cleburne’s Y & G team as they make the final tweaks and touches to their legislative bills, court briefs and testimonies as trial witnesses.
“Anytime you see kids take on leadership and pride in their work, it’s a teacher’s dream,” he said. “I had no idea when I signed on as sponsor it would go this way. It was such a big deal at CHS years ago. When we got to state and saw names of past Youth and Government leaders it gave us such pride to see Cleburne listed over and over. This is a legacy we want to carry forward.”
These Cleburne High School students will be competing Saturday at the YMCA Youth and Government District Conference. Seated l-r, Sierra Pugh, Cameron Horton, Yemi Tamez, Mason Hill and back from left, Andrew Slimp, Jack Bennett, Arturo Rolon, Tarek Arouse, Tabitha Lane, Caleb Barkman and Faculty Sponsor Matt Moulden. Not pictured are Smith Boles, Reese Williams, Emily Davis, Sarah Roy, Chris Wallace, Hailey Traweek, Nardasha Boaz, Rebekah Lemus, Keaton Howe, Lily Edwards and Merit Davis.