With the 83rd Texas Legislature fully immersed in committee hearings and debates concerning all things public education, the flood of Texas middle school students that arrived at the Capitol in March for the 2013 Junior Youth and Government State Conference couldn’t have done so at a more poignant time. 

Among them was a contingent of 85 delegates from Dowell Middle School who performed a number of key roles — including Governor — and brought home top honors for their distinguished work and political savvy. 

Sponsored by YMCA, Youth and Government/Junior Youth and Government are national programs that allow high school and middle school students, respectively, to explore the myriad complexities and challenges of the political process. Two McKinney ISD campuses, McKinney Boyd High School and Dowell Middle School, currently participate in the programs. 

Under the guidance of Dowell Middle School teacher Judith Anderson-Bruess, the members of the Dowell club spent the months leading up to the state conference honing their debate skills; mastering the legislative process; and preparing, authoring and vetting bills to present before their peers at the campus and district levels.

According to Anderson-Bruess, the process itself has much to offer students. “By researching, drafting and debating their own proposed legislation,” she said, “Youth and Government students develop public speaking, critical thinking and writing skills as well as the valuable experience of working as part of a team to accomplish a specific goal.”

The ultimate goal was Austin. Students who successfully navigated the political waters and saw their proposed bills pass at the district level—which includes private and public schools from Dallas, Highland Park, Garland, Irving, Richardson, Frisco, Allen, Coppell and Carrollton—qualified to move on to the state conference where they repeated the process on a much larger scale among their peers from all across Texas. 

This year, Dowell traveled to Austin with its largest number of delegates yet, and a number of them received high honors for their hard work and political aptitude. Riley Milliken’s campaign for Governor garnered enough votes to win the office for 2013–2014, making Milliken the third consecutive Dowell delegate to win that title. Eight-grader Lexi Thorson won it last year and served as Governor at this year’s conference, and former Dowell 8th grader Mandy Wallner sat in the Governor’s chair during the 2011–2012 Junior Youth and Government State Conference. 

Milliken said that he is excited to take over as Governor and that he has many ideas on how to make Junior Youth and Government better and bigger. 

“Youth and Government is a program that not only teaches you about the legislative process, but it also gives you the confidence to speak in big crowds and the courage to stand up for what you believe in,” he said.

Here is the complete list of honors the Dowell Middle School delegates earned at the 2013 Junior Youth and Government State Conference:

Title Name(s) Grade
Governor Lexi Thorson 8th
Governor Elect Riley Milliken 7th
Speaker of the House Jessie Searles 8th
Speaker of Duran House Michael Brown 6th
Distinguished Delegate of Duran House Denny Shinn 6th
Distinguished Delegates of the House Cassie Ruml and Adithya Prabakaran 7th
Distinguished Delegate of the Senate Riley Milliken 7th
Distinguished Governor’s Cabinet Alex Toombs and Sarah Dickson 7th
Outstanding Chair and Clerk Jessie Searles and Lauren Patton 8th
Outstanding Staff Member of the House Tori Chiancone 7th
Outstanding Statesman in the Senate McKenzy Smith 7th
Premier Delegation McKinney YMCA

With the increasingly challenging political waters that students like Milliken, Thorson and their peers will navigate as adults, it’s reassuring to know that the opportunities made available through the Junior Youth and Government program and the time invested by teachers like Judith Anderson-Bruess are equipping them with the skills, knowledge and confidence to lead—and to lead well.

For additional information on McKinney ISD, contact Shane Mauldin, MISD Communications Specialist, at 469-302-4007 or smauldin@mckinneyisd.net.


About McKinney ISD

One of the fastest growing school districts in Texas, the McKinney Independent School District currently enrolls more than 24,000 students in 20 elementary schools, five middle schools, three high schools, one alternative school and one early childhood education school. The mission of McKinney ISD, the champion for progressive learning throughout the diverse McKinney community, is to inspire and equip all students to explore, develop and express their unique potential as innovators, critical thinkers and collaborators through challenging, engaging and diverse learning experiences in vital partnership with the community. Visit the district's website at mckinneyisd.net.