Gavenas earned the prestigious position after winning the campaign a year ago and, while mixing a heavy load of academics at the local high school, has managed to perform her duties well as the highest-ranking officer in the “Y’s” highly popular program.
Over Presidents’ Day Weekend, teenagers from throughout the state took over the state capitol, the Sacramento Convention Center and downtown hotels to pass mock legislation, present cases in the Supreme Court chambers, and assume leadership roles, all while developing real life skills in public speaking, debate and character development.
Approximately 3,000 delegates, accompanied by advisors from 98 YMCA delegations, experienced how state governmental system works, while showing a real passion for issues by vocally expressing pros and cons on a multitude of concerns from making public transportation free to eliminating tenure for teachers at public schools.
Area teens have been meeting since September on a weekly basis at the local YMCA, and it all culminated with the trip to Sacramento where they had a chance to dress the part of governmental officials, wearing business attire as they played the role of the actual role of the state Legislature. Delegates in their senior year are provided with letters of recommendations to colleges as well as program completion certificates to document their accomplishment.
And the highest ranking official, overseeing the executive branch, including the secretary of state, attorney general, district attorney and more, was South Pasadena’s own – the Honorable Lena Gavenas. For a weekend, at least, she had the opportunity to sit in the chair of the guy who holds the real job as governor, Jerry Brown.
“Being the youth governor has been an amazing experience,” said Gavenas, noting that having the opportunity to speak in front of 3,000 delegates has been one of the most rewarding and challenging parts of the experience.
Gavenas said she felt the magnitude of the position when facing those in the huge crowd, everyone listening to her message during a joint session. “When you have a room of that size that is completely silent it is hard not to think about the magnitude of what you’re doing,” Gavenas explained.
Over the past year since assuming the lofty position, Gavenas has learned how to manage others, delegate the heavy workload, prioritize her time, balance school with her responsibilities as the YMCA youth governor, and live the normal life of a teenager.
“I’ve grown in confidence and in my ability to communicate,” she said. “I’m comfortable with getting up on stage and responding to difficult questions. I’m also willing to be proven wrong, which was a big part of what my platform was about, coming into a discussion not with the inherent purpose being to win an argument, but to find the best solution together.”
The atmosphere around last weekend’s conference was all business. In addition to a strict dress code, there’s zero tolerance for inappropriate behavior. “The delegates come away with extremely strong values, respect and responsibility,” explained Sue Marasco, executive director of the South Pasadena – San Marino YMCA. “They have to learn how to handle themselves in a business manner.”
Published: March 4, 2015 09:43:58 AM
- Sub-Headline : For California YMCA Youth and Government Program
- ByLine : By Bill Glazier Review Editor