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2019 Students Inside Albany Conference
This year, Jacob Miller, a Greeley Junior, was selected to attend the 2019 Students Inside Albany conference. He reported on his experience:
I recently returned from the four day Students Inside Albany Conference, and I am so excited to share the details of what was such an amazing experience.
On Sunday I arrived at Penn Station and very quickly met up with several other of the students attending the conference. We all sat near each other on the train, sharing stories about how we learned about the conference and what we were excited for. We then arrived at the hotel in downtown Albany and played a game of "get to know you" bingo before we were treated to our first dinner. After eating, Laura Bierman, the Executive Director of the League of Women Voters and the director of our program, talked to us about what we could expect from this conference. We then received a fun and informative presentation all about how the New York State government works (which was extremely helpful, as I realized I knew very little about our state government). She offered many intriguing connections, notably how our state government was actually similar in many ways to the hit series "Game of Thrones" (largely because of the numerous scandals). We spent the rest of the night bonding over board games and debates over whether or not Westchester is considered upstate New York (it's not, I swear!), before we headed off to bed so we could be energized by the morning!
We started off Monday with a tour of the capitol, a gigantic and very historic building located right in the heart of Albany. We then got the chance to hear from Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy about what we, as citizens, can do to be successful lobbyists, a recurring theme throughout the entire conference. This was extremely helpful, especially since we got the opinion Assemblywoman who has had extensive experience taking into account the proposals from lobbyists. After a nice Mexican themed lunch, we headed off to the Court of Appeals (the highest court in New York State) for a quick informative meeting before returning back to the capitol to shadow our assemblyman, which, for myself and two girls from John Jay High School, was our very own David Buchwald.
This shadowing experience was by far my favorite experience of the conference. After conversing with his staff for half an hour, we headed down to the assembly floor and met up with Assemblyman Buchwald himself. For the next two hours, the four of us engaged in great, candid conversations all about what it is like to be an assemblyman. He took us with him when he met with the White Plains fire chief and the New York Presbyterian Hospital (allowing us to see two actual lobbying examples), and he sat in the back of the Assembly with us during the entire session, casually standing and giving a thumbs up when he was in favor of a bill, and when not, giving the clerks a large thumbs down. What interested me was not only how casual the assembly floor was, with many of the assemblymen not even in their seats, but also how non-controversial the bills that were being passed were, with many of them being passed unanimously. We learned that because the Democrats have such a great supermajority in the Assembly, they generally know if their bills are going to have enough support before they reach the floor, so most of the debates occur in the committees or the party conferences instead of on the actual floor itself.
After we met up with the rest of the group, we all returned to the hotel, giddy with excitement after having witnessed a live Assembly session in action. Following dinner, we had the opportunity to hear from two speakers, a county legislator and a library trustee, to hear all about their experiences with running for office. Both of them had no prior political experience before obtaining their positions, so it was inspiring to see that we, just like them, have the ability to run for office even after having not held office before. We finished the night going to a local middle school basement (a place dubbed as "the pitt") that had ping pong, foosball, and some other fun games. Although it seemed a little childish for a group of high schoolers to be hanging out in a middle school basement, it ended up being a great place for us to all get closer.
Tuesday started off with two speakers, one from the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) and one from the environmental sector of the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), both talking about the ways that each of the groups lobby the New York State government. They were both very receptive and honest with questions, and since education and the environment are two issues that high schoolers tend to know a lot about (especially with such a diverse group coming from all over the state), we ended up having pretty great discussions and learning a lot from the presenters.
We had a little time to rest and eat before heading over the the Capitol again for our shadow experience with our state senator, which for me was Senator Peter Harckham. Surprisingly, I ran right into our own Town Supervisor, Robert Greenstein, on the way in. After wandering around the building with Senator Harckham's staff for the first hour (even they got lost in the building, it was that big!), we went to the Senate floor to see a session in action. Most of the senators are expected to be in their seat during session, so we didn't have as many opportunities to speak with Senator Harckham, although he walked back to us a number of times to fill us in on what was going on. Still, the whole experience of being on the senate floor was just great to witness.
That night was our last night altogether, so we got to go to a bowling alley (super cool!). We actually all had a lot of fun there, and even though I lost by just a single point, it was a great way to spend time with everyone. The next morning we debriefed what we had seen, and almost everyone stood up and gave an interesting take away from the week, many of which I had never even considered myself. Then, those of us who were eligible (not me, since I'm still 17) had the opportunity to register to vote, but we were given clear instructions of how to complete the process when we become of age. This marked the end of the conference, and after receiving our recognition papers (who doesn't love a good participation award), we were sent off to the train station, taking with us a bagged lunch, half a week's worth of lifetime memories, and a renewed interest in local and state politics.
I would like to thank the League of Women Voters for giving me the opportunity to attend this conference. I learned that I have the ability to get myself involved with local government and make an impact in my community, and I'm eager to see where that takes me.
For more details on Jacob's experience, go to his report.
Past Student Participants in the Students Inside Albany Conference
2018 - Josh Moskow, Greeley Junior
2017 - Juliette Harrison, Greeley Junior
2016 - Fiona Dubrosa, Greeley Junior
2015 - Melanie Leason, Greeley Junior
2014 - Brandon Hilfer, Greeley Sophomore
2013 - Jacob Bayer, Greeley Junior
2012 - Tim Bloom, Greeley Junior