Earning position as Youth and Government State Print Editor-In-Chief leaves lasting impression on student journalist


Gloria Ogunlade takes her seat at the table as newly elected Youth and Government Editor-In- Chief. (Dianne Williams photo)

By Gloria Ogunlade

I took my seat on the platform in front of over 1,500 delegates and turned my head to watch as the Governor a few seats down began to give his final speech. I had just earned my seat in state office and succeeded the officer before me, and now the Texas Governor was about to pass his own position down. The former officers still on the stage were made up of high school seniors and the incoming officers, like me, consisted of juniors. This was not just any government, this was Youth and Government(YAG).

My YMCA Youth and Government (YG) journey began just this school year. I can still recall being new to the organization and having a small gold gavel being pinned onto my shirt as they welcomed me at the end of the year banquet. The program reflects an authentic system of government amongst middle and high school students, and trust me when I say that the responsibilities and rewards obtained in YG can feel exactly like adult political practice.

I began the year as a Print delegate in the Media section. Starting off  was straightforward enough. I attended meets and learned what exactly my job was. My job was to cover the affairs of delegates in Legislative, State Affairs Forum, and Judicial court. Reporting and writing articles on events was not something new to me and it seemed that the most interesting parts of YAG for me would be watching my friends debate their bills and proposals or act as attorneys and witnesses in this year’s civil case. It wasn’t until I experienced the District then State Conferences that I realized my passion and love for journalism and politics intertwined.

Youth and Government became a series of unpredictable, outrageous and wonderful events that mimicked occurrences you see in today’s political world.  I covered everything from seemingly unqualified candidates running for the highest state office of Youth Governor to controversial bill topics such as the legalization of prostitution.  I finally was exposed to the see-it-to-believe-it remarkable world of politically aware youth.

At the District Conference, I covered a delegate’s Legislative bill aiming to legalize public hangings. Initially, this bill seemed like an abomination to me. The student bill author was no doubt passionate about the topic. The publicly debated it over the span of many months up until state. I decided to follow this story all the way to the State Conference.

After several compelling interviews that might have seemed more like arguments and hurriedly typing on my phone to meet my assignment deadline, this student’s bill turned into my first story published on the YMCA Youth and Government blog.

The beauty in writing that first article was that I gained an understanding about what I had first assumed was an insane, nonsensical topic. That was when I learned the whole purpose of YAG. The purpose is to give every student a voice and create an environment where future leaders can compromise and build on perspectives of others.

That first article I wrote at the State Conference also forged my own pathway as a leader in the YAG world. It wasn’t long after I submitted it for publishing that I was called to speak with the student and adviser editors in the media room briefly. I was told that my piece was excellent and encouraged to run for the office of Print Editor-in-Chief. “There’s only one other candidate running,” they told me, “You’ll have to present a short speech to give in front of the other media delegates and then they will vote between the two of you.” My first thought was that I was not going to run. It was only my first year at the YG State Conference. The praise on my article was enough of a compliment to me and I didn’t see when I would find time to create a speech between all the shuttles back and forth from the Capitol building in Austin, assignment deadlines, and midnight curfews. It wasn’t until less than an hour before the candidate speeches that I decided to run. Even then, I did not have a speech prepared against my opponent whom had known she was running since the school year started.

I ended up quickly typing some pointers into the notes section of my phone before being asked to give my speech. I spoke about my experience as a writer. I spoke about my hopes of making a career in both the areas of politics and journalism. Finally I shared my love and passion for the work I did for the whole weekend as a YAG media representative.

Later that night, I sat with my Duncanville YAG peers listening to awards being called. Among 15 other students from my school, I was awarded Distinguished Delegate in the area of Media. Then came officer positions. The former officers each gave a speech.  Some  were very touching.  Some were very amusing. All of these came before calling the name of the person  replacing them for the upcoming year. The speech was followed by  switching the white paper name plate in front of their chair before the new officer came and took their seat. The time came for the current Print Editor-In-Chief to make her speech. She spoke about the power of media. She tied this to the impact Youth and Government had had on her life as a way of  letting her voice be heard. Her powerful words invoked something in me. At that moment  I began to  imagine myself speaking in front of the same crowd the following year. Her speech ended and there was that moment of silent pause.  She removed her name plate revealing the new Print Editor-in-Chief.  The new paper read: Gloria Ogunlade: Print Editor-In- Chief. 

As I went up to take my seat I could hear the voices of my friends cheering for me. My adviser in here excitement was calling me to look at her so she could snap a photo. The former officer gave me a congratulations. She even gave me some advice.  Then I was introduced to my fellow media officers. In that moment, I tried not to act like it was a big deal.  In all honesty, that night I was more proud of my friend’s accomplishments than my own. One thing I will never forget from that night was my friend and then-Governor, Sharif Long, whose eyes met mine and he was mouthing to me that he was proud of me. Then he to would give his last speech as acting Governor. At that moment, I became proud of what I was able to achieve in my first year and now I can only imagine the possibilities in my upcoming year as a state officer.

While attending my first Youth and Government (YAG) state conference, I was not expecting to run for, better yet receive, a state officer position. My brief campaign then election as Print Editor-in-Chief for Texas YAG came and went as a blur then a shock. After the chaos of being asked to run last minute against an opponent with a planned-out speech then hearing my name called at the final ceremony, I can now look back and say that this election was one of the greatest honors in my life.