Three weeks before arriving on the mountain, while most other delegations were waiting to see if they were staying in Asheville Hall or Lee, finalizing t-shirt ideas and making sure all their deadlines were met, South Carolina faced a sudden crisis.
For the past 18 years, a significant portion of the funding for the South Carolina YMCA Youth in Government program has come from the state. However, on Thursday May 29, Gov. Sanford vetoed a bill which would have appropriated $18,446 to fund next year’s YIG programs. The House of Representatives voted to sustain the veto, but after some pressure, agreed to reconsider its decision on Tuesday, June 3.
Almost immediately, YIG program director Mary Capers Bledsoe sent out a call to all student participants in Youth in Government, urging each student to call the legislators who voted to sustain the veto, and explain, politely and professionally, how much YIG means to them. A list of all of the legislator’s phone numbers was included in the e-mail.
By midnight on Friday, May 30, the Facebook group “STOP SC LEGISLATURE FROM REMOVING YIG FUNDING” had over 150 members. Kat Humphries, a senior, compiled a complete list of the legislator’s e-mail addresses, and posted it on the group’s web page.
All weekend, calls and emails went out in force. Sarah Parker Phillips, a rising sophomore who lives in Charleston, called every single number.
“Youth in Government is something I can look forward to months in advance. Not many things in high school give you the opportunity to learn something by actually trying it out, and even fewer are truly memorable, fun experiences. YIG does. YIG is. Ten years from now, I won’t remember sitting in a classroom listening to a lecture about the legislative process, but I will remember living it, and I’ll remember the best kids South Carolina has to offer, all in one place, doing what we love,” Phillips said.
By Saturday, the Facebook group’s membership had doubled to just over 300. A website where concerns could be expressed directly to Governor Sanford’s office had been linked and posted, and, on top of continuing calls and e-mails, students were now barraging the office with polite complaints. Bob Leach, a representative from Greenville, told the ninth person to call him on Saturday that he had already been fully convinced, and didn’t need to be called again.
“If you talk to anyone involved in Youth in Government,” Neha Parthasarathy, 2008-2009’s Youth Governor, said. “They will tell you that it’s not just a surface level extracurricular program, but a program that profoundly affects people. The students that you see at YIG are the students you see out there truly making a difference. $18,000 is not a lot of money to ask for a life changing experience. YIG is helping South Carolina students transition into becoming the citizens who will build the state’s future.” As far as making a difference? The House overrode Sanford’s veto. The Senate followed without a fight, and the South Carolina delegation retained its funding