A group of Bay area teens is making their voices heard in Tallahassee today. 

  • Bay area YMCA Youth In Government students go to state capitol 
  • Students to debate for legislation they created
  • Florida YMCA YIG

Local students with the YMCA's "Youth in Government" group will be at the state capitol Wednesday debating bills they have drafted. About 600 students are participating in the trip, which will have them following their legislation through the entire process. 

Florida's YMCA Youth in Government program was founded in 1957 to get young people engaged in the political process at the state level. The Florida program was a spinoff of the YMCA's national "YIG" organization started in the mid 1930s. 

High school junior Tina Strock has been a part of the Tallahassee delegation for the past two years and says the experience has had a great impact on her. 

She said she has been looking forward to another trip to Tallahassee.

"We're in the actual state legislature building," Strock said. "And we have a couple different program areas so legislative delegates actually write legislation and while there they are going to present their legislation and have it debated on a chamber floor." 

Strock is a member of the group's press corps and will be writing articles for publication that present different issues relevant to her generation. 

While she is covering the assembly, her peers will follow their bills through the legislative process. The students' bills cover everything from tax reform and environmental issues to criminal reform.

Program Director Amy Beatty, a veteran of the program, said her experience with YIG helped shape her career. 

"What I took away most as a student was the confidence building and the public speaking skills," Beatty said. "It actually inspired me to pursue a degree in communications, and that's what I love most about coming back and seeing the students now." 

Once the event concludes, student leaders will sign off on legislation that is passed. 

"It's really exciting to be in the state capitol," Strock said. "It's something that makes it really real, to be able to look out there and think, this is where actual government legislators walk, this is where people who do this for a living, this is where people that make the decisions for our state.

"This is where they work and we're here and it's really inspiring to think if they're here and we're here now, that we can make the same changes that they make."