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Steuben County Youth program draws local, state accolades

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Founded in 1983, over 1300 youth have participated

BATH – A unique high school program responsible for engaging youth in local government services was recognized for celebrating its 40th year Monday by state and county leaders during the regular session of the county Legislature.

The Youth In Government program began as a Steuben County Cornell Cooperative Ext. project in 1983, then turned over to Steuben County where it has been a fixture for decades.

Since then, more than 1,300 high school juniors and seniors across Steuben have participated in the program with far-reaching effects.

Alumni include county legislators Chairman Scott Van Etten (R-Caton) and Aaron Mullen (R-Avoca)  and State Sen. Tom O’Mara representative Mike Rogers. Countless other county residents have pursued governmental careers, international studies and serve as civic leaders in their communities.  

Youth in Government Coordinator Bill Caudill read an excerpt from an unnamed intern from the Spring 2023 cohort, who is serving on a prestigious student council at the University of Alabama as an incoming freshman, quoting “…if it were not for my YIG experience, I would not be able to make it into this significant opportunity.”

The students/interns attend sessions of the Legislature and its committees and interview department heads to learn more about how local government operates and serves their communities. Interns are then required to develop their own resolutions and present, debate and vote on them during a simulated Legislative session.

Past resolutions, some of which have gained formal legislative support, include improving Public Health signage, creating a better public transportation system, creating a fresh produce initiative, noting county Hall Of Fame inductees in a more public place, and acting on Bail Reform.

The importance of the program on its 40th anniversary was recognized by proclamations from the county Legislature, the state Assembly and state Senate.

Yet the day’s greatest impact on the county was the future of the 19 interns present during the brief ceremony, officials said.

State Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, R-Corning thanked the Legislature for its support and urged the students to become involved in their communities, in or out of elected office. Their involvement begins now, he said.

“Be a voice,” he told the interns. “Speak up now about what matters to you. Be a voice.”

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