The Westfield Area Y congratulates the Cranford and Westfield High School Youth and Government students who recently participated in a two and a half day legislative conference held at the State House in Trenton. The students participated in wide ranging debates that were the culmination of months of research and preparation. There were 46 students from Cranford High School and 42 students from Westfield High School who participated.
 
There were 460 students from more than 20 New Jersey high schools who participated in the 2016 conference.  Locally, the program is run at Cranford and Westfield High Schools by teachers from the schools in collaboration with the Westfield Area Y. 
 
In 1936, YMCAs across the country began the Youth and Government program as a teen leadership exercise founded in the spirit of teaching civil responsibility to new generations of Americans.  Since then, Youth and Government programs have been established in 45 states, involving more than 50,000 teens across the country every year.  This program allows students to experience how New Jersey’s government works while forging new friendships and gaining a deeper sense of civic awareness.
 
Through this program, students are better able to understand and get involved in political and public affairs; communicate their ideas and opinions; develop their research, writing and presentation skills; and understand the value of student leadership.
 
The 2016 Cranford High School officers were Dave Debole, Elsa Rodriguez and Bart Lahiff. Westfield High School officers were Seniors Isabella Gelfand, Frank Guerriero, Bryanna Reinhardt, and Ellie Smith; and Junior Rafaela Laitamaki. All of them spent the past year preparing for and organizing the event and its related days of service.   
Cranford and Westfield High Schools both received awards for Outstanding Delegation.
 
The following individuals were recognized for the following awards:
 
David Della Ferra, Westfield HS advisor, was the proud recipient of the 2016 John F. Sly award.  This award is presented each year to an adult advisor in the program for going above and beyond to better the program and for their service to youth in the community.

 
The students selected from Cranford High School to attend the two-week YMCA Youth Conference on National Affairs (CONA) in North Carolina this summer with representatives from all fifty states were Gabe Beckford, Will Budries, Dave DeBole, Elsa Rodriguez and Kevin Schwartz.  Students selected to attend from Westfield High School were Austin Chen, Isabella Gelfand, Ben Halevy, Bryanna Reinhardt, Ellie Smith, Samantha Della Fera and Felicia Mermer.
 
Emma Scott from Cranford High School and Westfield High School students Jeffrey Yang, Nicole Eisenberg, Felicia Mermer and Albert Chen all passed bills into law at the conference.
 
Outstanding Legislation: Kristina Kortbaoui from Cranford High School and Westfield High School students Isabel Lee, Felicia Mermer, and Juliana Yang.
Outstanding Delegate: Todd Sweeney from Cranford High School.
Premier Youth Secretariat:  Felicia Mermer from Westfield High School.
Outstanding Statesperson: Albert Chen from Westfield High School.
 
A number of Westfield eighth graders attended as Junior Legislators this year through the Westfield Area Y. One of them, Kailey Zhao from Edison school was named Outstanding Junior Legislator.
 
For the 2017 YMCA Youth and Government conference, Elsa Rodriguez from the Cranford delegation was elected Youth Governor along with Kevin Schwartz as a senate clerk. Westfield High School students Ben Halevy and Rafaela Laitamaki were elected as officers for next year’s conference as well.
 
The Westfield Area Y congratulates all the participants and recognized Cranford and Westfield students.