YAL at Capitol: Students Discuss Leadership and Legislative Ideas

Youth as Leaders group stands on Million Dollar staircase.Members of the MCS Youth as Leaders (YAL) club joined their contemporaries for Legislative Day at the New York State Capitol on Feb. 5. The trip gave students an opportunity to discuss legislative ideas with Senator Peter Oberacker and Assemblyman Chris Tague. 

YAL focuses on leadership activities, and each month, MCS students work with their counterparts from other Schoharie County Schools on team-building and community service. YAL’s history has had a lasting impact; Assembly Tague remarked that he had been a YAL member in his youth, many years before he became a public servant.

State Senator Oberacker and Assemblyman Tague talking with students.During their time with the students, Oberacker and Tague discussed their personal leadership histories. Both men began as members of the local farming and business communities, and those experiences shaped their missions.

Tague began his first dairy business when he was just 16 years old. He told the students that every job he had gave him experiences that prepared him for the work he does today. 

“My story is one about never giving up,” Tague said. You don’t have to be a Harvard, Yale, or Princeton graduate to do a good job in government and make good decisions for the people you represent. ” 

Students raising hands during discussion.Oberacker told students he began working in his family’s sausage-making business when he was a child, went to college and then had a career with Con-Agra before switching to politics. He says he had an epiphany when he was talking with some friends.

“I was sitting with friends, and I was complaining about what was going on,” said Oberacker. ‘One of my friends said, ‘Stop complaining. Step up. Do something about it,’ so I did.”

YAL students came prepared to share ideas on issues they care about and asked Oberacker and Tague how they could work together to combat addiction, increase diversity in rural communities, address climate change and create engaging activities (including job opportunities) for community youth. 

Students seated and standing in legislative conference room.When asked if they would consider a run for office or working in another capacity at the Capitol, the students pondered the possibility.

I could see being there at meetings, jotting down notes, being able to be there in person, and having influence on decisions made,” said Kaelyn Jensen. 

“If I were to get into politics I would try to be a representative who advocated for environmental health,” said Gabby Armlin. “It’s an issue that we don’t think about as much as we should.”

“Maybe I would run for something if I thought I could do well at it,” said Morgan Masterson. “I would do the research and figure it out,” she concluded.

In addition to meeting with Oberacker and Tague, students had a quick self-guided tour of the Capitol and visited a Black History Month exhibit that educated them on the history of slavery in New York.