A Summary of YIG Conference

Youth in Government, or YIG, is a statewide program organized by the YMCA. At the beginning of every year, there is a YIG conference delegations from around the state attend. The conference lasts four days, typically starting on a Thursday and going until Sunday. This past conference, Holy Family sent a delegation of eleven students. Delegates present bills they have written in front of other students around the state. They have the opportunity to present their bills in front of committees, a House of Representatives, a Senate, and possibly the Youth Governor and Youth Lieutenant Governor. Delegates also have the opportunity to present court cases against other delegates. This year’s conference was successful. Here is a summary of all of the Holy Family delegates’ accomplishments:

Photo: Rachel Spoden (10th), Lou Foley (10th), Hayden Nichols (9th), and Evie Domyhahn (9th) in front of the capital building



  • Delegates were given a case and had two months to prepare their case
  • Lou Foley (10th) and Rachel Spoden (10th) presented their case for the first time as defense and won their trial.
  • Hayden Nichols (9th) and Evie Domyhahn (9th) presented their case for the second time as prosecution and won their trial
  • The trial court administrators surprised everyone participating in courts with a suprise case to prepare in 2 hours. They were very successful
  • Rachel Spoden was selected to be a lawyer in the surprise case.


  • Delegates debated issues and bills on the state level.
  • Jacob Mocol’s (9th) bill was about financial relief and assistance for those living at a hospital. It passed the Senate, and the House.
  • Sophia Jesse’s (10th) bill was about requiring people to pass a psychological evaluation before purchasing a firearm. Her bill passed the Senate and the hHouse, but could not get signed by the Lieutenant Governor or the Governor because time ran out. 
  • Alex Raw’s (10th) bill was about unbanning all books in Minnesota. It passed the House.
  • Abbey Pawelek’s (10th) bill was about banning animal testing in Minnesota. It passed committee.
  • Jossy Fette’s (11th) bill was about banning disclosing non-violent crimes in a background check. It passed committee.
  • Kori Lenzmeier’s (12th) bill was about requiring critical race theory in all social studies courses, it was placed on the consent calendar, and passed the Senate. 

Photo: Jossy Fette (11th), Abbey Pawelek (10th), and Rachel Spoden (10th) at the closing ceremony


The delegates were also asked about their experience with Youth in Government and what they gained from the experience. 

Rachel Spoden (10th): I had so much fun at YIG this year! At the beginning, I was definitely nervous because I didn’t know what to expect; but, after seeing the court case for the first time, I felt more comfortable. I learned a lot about the judicial part of the governmental process as I feel it is not talked about as much as the legislative level. I had so much fun being a lawyer in a hit and run case, and calling objections in the court. I also had fun in the evening activities where I played games, watched a talent show, and hung out with my friends. I am so glad I heard about YIG, because I am definitely doing it again!

Abbey Pawelek (10th): I think my accomplishments came from my bill and from my efforts.. My bill was about abolishing animal testing in Minnesota. My bill made it to the House, which isn’t far, but it was further than I ever expected it to go. I think I improved my skill in public speaking, which also boosted my confidence. Going into the conference, I never expected my confidence to boost as much as it did. Finally, I think everyone should join Youth in Government, because even if you think that you aren’t a very confident person, you are more confident than you think you are. 

Jacob Mocol (9th): What I expected from Youth in Government was a very uptight environment. Instead, I discovered an inclusive place where I could voice my opinions on topical laws and bills in the courtroom. It was an eye-opening experience as I saw the way the legal system actually worked. I learned so much from YIG. First, the language used was formal to maintain order, but it was easily understandable. There was an opening statement, then we debated the bill. I had an amazing time at YIG. I made some new friends, and learned more about Minneapolis. It’s a great place to become more independent. The people you meet and befriend makes this program so worth it.

Alex Raw (10th): During my time at YIG, I learned how to work together with new people and become part of a community that worked together to pass bills. When I first thought about going up in front of everyone to present, I imagined that it would be so difficult and nerve wracking. When I went up there, though, I was able to state my bill calmly because of the community that was around me. When I finished presenting my bill I saw it pass through my House of Representatives. Through YIG, I learned about insights and opinions on all different kinds of topics. When I started to find friends there, I learned that we all are there to do the same thing: come together and learn more about the kinds of topics that are heavily debated in our state. My experience there helped me grow tremendously, and I was able to see myself push myself out of my comfort zone to present.

Photo: Dr. Pottebaum, Kori Lenzmeier (12th), Abbey Pawelek (10th), and Jossy Fette (11th) at trivia!


Lou Foley (10th): I really enjoyed Youth in Government. Right when I started I noticed that it’s just a really welcoming environment, especially in regards to Trial Courts. I think it can really help you become a better public speaker. It definitely has a lot of opportunities for you to advance, even in smaller delegations. You can become an elected official, which is something that pretty much anyone can do. When it comes to improving your linguistic skills, critical thinking, and learning the legal process, I think YIG is a helpful and efficient crash course which helped me a lot. It can be a bit much at first, but it really is a quick learning curve. YIG allows you to feel at home in any environment very quickly! It can get a bit hectic, but it was a great experience.

Sophia Jesse (10th): Going into YIG, I really had no idea what to expect. I definitely did not expect to have nearly as much fun as I did. Everyone was really outgoing and friendly, and I was able to meet a lot of new people. YIG was a great way to have an inside view on the government. When I first got there, I was so lost and had no idea what was going on; by the end of the conference, I knew exactly what to do. I learned about what senators and representatives do all day. It was a great experience and would highly recommend it to everyone.

Hayden Nichols (9th): Going into YIG for Trial Courts, I was nervous but excited. I didn’t know what to expect. When I first arrived at the hotel it was really chaotic but I tried to focus on the bright side. When I arrived at the capitol, I was in awe of its beauty. Going to the courtrooms, there was a long tunnel that led from the capitol to the state office building where the court rooms were. When we arrived, I was finally able to work on my case with my partner, Evie Domyahn. I couldn’t believe that we didn’t mess up on the case too much. When it came to presenting our case (People v. Vega), Evie and I represented the defense once and the prosecution once. When we were representing defense, we did well; but, unfortunately didn’t win our case. When we were representing prosecution, we somehow won! The case we presented was a hit-and-run case with a lot of hearsay. On the second to last day of YIG, we got a surprise case and everyone in the Trial Courts was so excited. This was my favorite case to present because of the plot! It was about a comedian who was accused of first degree murder. It was very fun to argue! All of Trial courts were split up to present this case, and the group I was in represented the prosecution. We had unfortunately lost the argument and the case. Throughout my experience at YIG, I have grown in many ways. I have gained more confidence, gotten better at public speaking, and just grown as a person as a whole! I loved this experience so much and will definitely do YIG again next year. Before I went to YIG, I always had a place in my heart for government; but, I wasn’t thinking about going into law for my occupation. Ever since I got home I have been thinking about going to law school, and becoming a lawyer! So, if anyone wants to go into government or politics, YIG is a great opportunity to get started.

Evie Domyhahn: When we headed up to the capitol in St. Paul, I was both excited and nervous. This was due to the fact that I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, once we got there, we went down to a courtroom to watch our first case. We were on jury duty, where we got to watch other cases and see how everything worked. There was a judge that watched everything, and there was a clerk, who swore in the jury and called the witnesses. There were also prosecution and defense lawyers. My partner and I were able to be defense lawyers the second day we were there. Since there wasn’t much time left, we didn’t get to present as much as we wanted to, and we lost the case. We were prosecution later on, though and we won that one. After that, we got to watch more cases, which got a little tedious after a while, but it was still interesting to hear what everyone else had prepared. We also got to meet a senator and explore the capitol building a little bit. I highly recommend Youth in Government for anyone who wants to learn more about the government and make some new friends! YIG is an amazing experience and I had so much fun!

Photo: Hayden Nichols (9th), Evie Domyhahn (9th), Rachel Spoden (10th), and Lou Foley (10th) on the bus to YIG!


Finally, a message from delegation leader, Kori Lenzmeier:

This year, I wrote my bill on requiring all high school social studies classes to teach critical race theory. The last several years I have written my bills on less controversial and “easy” bill ideas. I wanted to be more controversial this year, but still write something that I thought could pass with a decent amount of debate. 

When I presented my bill in the Education Development committee, Youth Governor Taffe’s Secretary of Education provided testimony, expressing the Governor’s approval. There was little to no debate, and the bill passed unanimously through committee. It was then voted to be put on the consent calendar, which are considered not debatable bills. My bill passed the Senate well being on the consent calendar and made it to the House. When the consent calendar was presented in the house, several delegates objected to my bill being on the calendar. Due to lack of time, my bill was never debated in the House. I believe that if I had had the chance to debate in the House, I would’ve passed through and it would have been signed by Youth Governor Taffe. 

After all the work that I put in over the last year to grow the Holy Family’s Youth in Government Delegation, I hope that it continues to flourish. I believe that I recruited some very motivated and interested individuals and that they will be able to continue on the work that I started. The YMCA’s Youth in Government program has been like a home for me the past four years and I am disappointed that it is over. YIG has empowered me to become a leader in my own community and to take risks such as joining Model UN last year and applying to represent Minnesota at the Conference on National Affairs, the national YIG conference. Without Youth in Government I would not be where I am today. 

Those who participate in YIG are affected in the most meaningful and positive ways. Through becoming a stronger public speaker, taking risks, making life-long friendships, and more. This program will continually affect its participants