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Students get hands-on insight into state lawmaking
Communications
Aleyea Mogilles

 

By Christine Bordelon, Clarion Herald

Three Catholic high school students have been elected to be among the 31 student members of the 2021-22 Louisiana Youth Advisory Council (LYAC).

They are Archbishop Hannan senior Matthew Pellittieri, an at-large member; Academy of the Sacred Heart junior Aleyea Mogilles, representing Louisiana Congressional District 2; and Mount Carmel Academy junior Isabella Lancaster, representing Congressional District 1. On July 19-20 in Baton Rouge, the LYAC members spent time hearing from state lawmakers and other government leaders, touring the chambers of the House of Representatives and electing leaders on the Youth Council, said Megan Bella, LYAC staff coordinator for the Louisiana State Senate.

Among the speakers were John Gallagher, executive director of the Louisiana Municipal Association (LMA); LMA executive counsel Karen White; Sen. Cleo Fields; Rep. Paula Davis; House Speaker Clay Schexnayder; and Zac Lemoine and Jackson Wright of the governor’s office.

During the school year, students will meet every other month with state and other legislative officials, Bella said, and come up with issues they want to work on “to influence the legislative process and make the state a better place for young people.”

“The youth council members brainstorm ideas and narrow them to one and then find a senator to sponsor their idea,” Bella said. “Students testify and come see the bill go through the Legislature.”

In the 2020-21 year, members worked hard on a bill to ban corporal punishment in public schools, Bello said. While the bill failed, Sen. Fields successfully sponsored a resolution asking the Louisiana Department of Education to study the possibility.

Other ideas that previous Youth Council members have moved through committee include a review of school safety plans, dual-enrollment curricula (earning credits for college while in high school) and how to get credit for service hours.

Youth Council members are students in grades 9-12 and are elected annually. Bella said students start applying in January (with a deadline for applications in March) and must have two letters of recommendation as well as a proven interest in civic involvement and leadership. There are three student members from each of the state’s six congressional districts; the rest are chosen at-large.

The LYAC is under the Louisiana Commission on Civic Education.

In addition to Pellittieri, Lancaster and Mogilles, Eleanor Brooks, a senior at Lusher Charter School, and Sander McComiskey, a senior at Christ Episcopal School, represent District 1; and Elliott Gomes, a sophomore from Benjamin Franklin High School, and Jasmin Kumar, a junior from Benjamin Franklin, were elected to represent District 2, which includes New Orleans.

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