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While Second Committee came to a close Monday evening, a proposal driven by one delegate’s life story made a lasting impact that many delegates will carry with them long after they have left The Mountain. Missouri delegate Elaine Badr has changed Committee X, and in turn, the delegates of her committee changed her as well.

Elaine’s Proposal 518 seeks to turn vacant federal buildings into havens for homeless people where they could live and cite the residence as an address in order to open the door to jobs and a better life.

“We have $1.7 billion of taxpayer money going into these vacant buildings, which is unacceptable,” Elaine explained. “So what I am trying to do is get these vacant buildings, which are up to code, and allow the homeless to move in so they can have an address.”

Elaine’s proposal stems from her past and her own family’s struggle. Her mother left her father when they were very young, and dropped everything to move from California to Saint Louis, MO, in hopes of finding a better life for them; her family’s move did not come without hardship. Elaine found herself in the shoes of other people struggling to put a roof over their heads. “We could have been homeless. We could have just been moving from shelter to shelter,” Elaine said.

“This proposal touches home with me. I just want to make sure that people who have dealt with issues like [homelessness] get the chance they deserve, because I got the chance and not many people do.”

Elaine Badr on her personal story

Shortly after Committees X and W combined to create a Second Committee, Elaine felt sick and returned to her room to rest. Despite falling ill during Second Committee, she returned to present her proposal at the encouragement of her peers, determined not to let her proposal and story die. Through tears and sickness, she delivered her proposal, touching many hearts in the committee and moving other delegates to tears. When she finished, the room erupted in applause, standing to thank her and cheer her on.

Delegate Hersh Pareek of Wisconsin was one of the delegates present at the event and was deeply moved by her speech. “We could all really relate to her kind of story,” Hersh stated. “It is very touching and really hits home.” The way the whole committee came together truly struck him, and he claimed it was the “best experience he has had in a committee.”

“She just made it seem so emotional and real to everybody. I’ve had the honor to have her in all three committees,” delegate Mallory Williams of Oklahoma stated. “She made my first year here really amazing.”


A group from Committee X gathers for a group photo. “I couldn’t ask for a better family,” said Elaine Badr

While the delegates were moved by Elaine’s story, she was truly impacted by the love and support they showed her. While her proposal did not move onto Third Committee, Elaine said, “I am just so appreciative that I had [my First Committee] there to inspire me to be the best person I could be.”

By Erin Gretzinger, WI


Despite differences in their program names, two delegations have found they have more in common than just a border and part of their state’s name. North and South Carolina shared a lunch to promote the exchange program they will be participating in for the coming Youth in/and Government program.



The leaders of the programs in the Carolina states decided while on The Mountain to begin a delegate exchange. From left Hunter Vaughan, John Bailey, Maile Paulmeier and John Acker. PHOTO by Caroline Bell.

The governors and lieutenant governors of both programs sat down to explain the who, what, when and why of the exchange.The masterminds of this exchange are Gov. Maile Paulmeier and Lt. Gov. John Acker of South Carolina, alongside North Carolina’s Gov. John Bailey and Lt. Gov. Hunter Vaughan. The idea for the exchange came from observing other programs, like Texas, Oklahoma and Minnesota, that participate in delegate exchanges, “… if they can do it, why can’t we,” said Bailey. One delegation sends a group to observe and vise versa. This is a brand new concept for both states, but one that they’re willing to embrace. “Lower county [elected leadership] already make waves given that most leadership comes from the Greenville area, so why not bridge the gap [between North and South Carolina],” said Acker. Bailey said everyone agreed that the main goal of the exchange would be to “learn how conferences are run, recruitment strategies, and the differences and similarities between the two conferences,” and “to expand opportunities outside of the state.”

Despite how well the two states meshed together since the inception of this idea, they were not each other’s first choice for a delegate exchange. It wasn’t until they got together at the Conference on National Affairs and got to know each other and saw how well their delegates meshed that they realized they were the obvious and best choice for an exchange. From the experience Paulimeier hopes in the exchange “… to bring our future leadership [of each respective conference] so that they can effect change after we’re gone.” There is so much to learn from the other, and it would be to both states’ advantage to take this opportunity. The exchange is a means to open the doors of both programs to other states to increase the potential learning opportunities for everyone involved.

By Sarah Jones, DE

It is almost impossible for delegates on The Mountain to go a day without socializing and meeting new people, but CONA’s Tuesday night dance is the first official social event of the week. This year’s theme is a Holiday Hoopla and delegates are encouraged to dress to represent a holiday.

person pinpointing pen on calendar

Choose your favorite day of the year and celebrate it at tonight’s dance!

There is sure to be some creativity stemming from popular holidays, such as Christmas and July the Fourth, which is right around the corner. Some delegates, though, have decided to go beyond nationally recognized holidays and dress to represent what Oklahoma State Director Whitney Chandler calls “made-up” holidays.

“We’ve heard of people doing National Twin Day, and we’ve got a Donut Day,” Whitney said. “You could be anything you want; if you’re wearing all green, you could be Arbor Day.”

This entertaining, informal dance will have a few changes this year that may excite delegates. The CONA Planning Committee has hired a DJ to come emcee the occasion, which is something that hasn’t happened for several years. Whitney, a committee representative, said the dance will also feature new light decorations that give out a different feel.

This dance is planned to be an opportunity for delegates to socialize, get involved and have fun without having to go all out.

“[Delegates] have had a lot of hard work all week, sitting in committees, being very serious and concerned about their proposal,” Whitney said. “Some get nervous or anxious to stand up and speak in committee so this night is a night for them to relax, be kids and have a good time. They have a chance to hang out and have fun with people that they’ve been debating with in committee for days.”

By Gloria Ogunlade, TX

While some CONA delegates struggle to adjust to life here without the use of the technology they use in day-to-day life, there is one delegate who’s doing just fine. James Jandro from Michigan evades that inconvenience by packing a typewriter along with his luggage.


Michigan delegate records his thoughts the old-fashioned way. PHOTOS by Brittany Wrzesinski, WA

At home, James uses his typewriter for essays and other assignments for school. He claims that the methodicalness of the typing, and the lack of the ability to erase, makes him more cognizant of what he is doing and also more relaxed. “I get a lot of great ideas when I’m typing on the typewriter,” said James. “Also my computer is really old and outdated … I found it a lot easier and a lot more enjoyable to actually type than to use, for lack of a better term, a ‘janky’ laptop,” he continued.

But, this buzzed-about typewriter, found at a Goodwill for just $5, is not the only antique that James owns. Among the three different typewriters, all from different decades, lies a collection of antique cameras, as well as a prized gas-guzzling, 1973 Buick Riviera. James has a passion for refurbishing the old and the neglected. Every antique he acquires he tries to restore, though he himself admits he’s better at restoring some over others.


James types away.

James regards his affinity for the retro as a normal part of his everyday life and marvels at the reaction it’s receiving on The Mountain. “Something that is a part of me and is me is recognized and for that I am flattered,” said James.

Article by Sarah Jones, DE and Beth Walker, NM

One of the most popular and well known traditions of the CONA conference is the opportunity to trade delegation shirts. Delegates all over the conference look for their favorite shirts or the most rare shirts to trade. This year many states have designed shirts that are important and specific to them and their state. One state has designed a shirt that was aimed at inspiring other delegates and youth around the country.

DelewareShirtFrontAt the beginning of the week delegates had the opportunity to retweet and like their favorite shirt on social media. Delaware’s shirt won this contest so let’s learn a little more about this shirt.

Shirt designer, Lucy Zuo shared with us that the shirt began with an idea from her advisor, Toph Patterson. Because Lucy designed the shirt for the past years conference, she was also tasked with designing the Delaware CONA shirt. Surprisingly, this is only the second experience that Lucy has ever had with any type of physical design! Even though she is still learning she is very pleased with the design.


Delaware’s hashtag crazed shirt has an important meaning behind it. This importance spreads not only through Delaware and CONA but youth through out the country. Lucy explains “In this past decade, we have seen the rise of social media being used for advocacy. In these past few years, this concept really came to life as there were SO many advocacy campaigns promoted through hashtags…this social media revolution encourages youth involvement where that was not necessarily prevalent before. This design highlights how involved the youth have become with their communities and the world around them. And at a conference of youth such as this one, that concept should most definitely be brought to light, praised, and encouraged.”

As for how they chose the hashtags on their shirt Lucy attributes credit to another Delaware delegate, Sarah Jones, as well as others that provided her with lists and example of hashtags and causes they wanted to feature on their shirt. Lucy also says she used the ever popular tool Google.

Delaware chose the colors of the shirt because the Delaware state flag is blue and gold. The chose a different blue than the flag because they like the color scheme of navy with gold better.

While the Delaware shirt as a whole is amazing and inspired, Lucy says her favorite part is the negative space on the back of the shirt in the shape of Delaware in the middle of all the hashtags. Lucy would also like to note that in the hashtags you should look for the small one that states, “#YIGnotYAG” as it is a Delaware YIG trademark!

By Ashley Hatch

YIG vs YAG photoSince the dawn of YMCA model government programs, a great debate has been going on, a debate that to this day is still just as heated as ever. Is it Youth in Government or Youth and Government? The answer might be simpler than you think.

Somehow one little word has been the source of much discourse throughout the program’s life, dividing delegates in a way that almost mirrors the divide playing out on the grand political stage of our own nation. Delegates are split almost down the middle with 40.5 percent of delegations opting for the use of YIG, 43.2 percent using YAG, and 16.3 percent opting for use of neither YIG nor YAG.

Those who use YAG claim: “I think it should be YAG, because ‘Youth in Government’ isn’t accurate as you can’t vote until you’re 18, therefore it’s not youth participating in the government.” Brittany Wrzesinski from the Washington delegation continued, “YAG is correct because in the program, youth are working in collaboration with the government.”

Alternatively, Seamus Mulready from the Michigan delegation, a strong supporter of YIG, had this to say, “I believe it should be YIG because a.) YAG rhymes with gag and b.) when you’re in the Youth in Government program you are in mock government.”

Despite the debate, there is a simple solution; all programs will change to YAG. A decades long debate is slowly drawing to a close as the YMCA of the USA is making a push for a universal change. It’s not for love or animosity towards one or the other, the change is meant to unify the brand of the YMCA’s youth model government program. The Delaware Youth in Government program is begrudgingly making the switch to Youth and Government in the coming years, its former director said. “To make branding easier, soon every state will make the switch to YAG,” he said. As passionate as people are about their respective names for their program, the YMCA of the USA has the final say, and their say is, YAG for all.

By Sarah Jones, DE

“I almost broke down outside one of the committee rooms thinking about how far I’ve come from as the kid who didn’t know anyone, or anyone he really connected with, and found that group of people in YIG.”

Deen Haleem, Opening Ceremony

For Deen Haleem, arriving on The Mountain for his fifth YMCA Youth Conference on National Affairs is a different experience. As opening ceremonies unfolded, for the first time, Haleem found himself not watching from the seats of the amphitheater but from the stage, serving as a presiding officer.

After being a part of the Massachusetts delegation and serving as lieutenant governor his senior year, his CONA journey continues as a P.O. He fell in love with CONA from the start, drawn by the debate and public speaking.

Deen Haleem

“I was always that kid who just had to raise his placard,” said P.O. Deen Haleem

“I was always ready to debate proposals so much. I would prepare my research in the weeks before so I could be on absolutely everything,” Haleem said. “I was always that kid who just had to raise his placard.”

While the debate was always lively and intriguing, the larger reason he longed to return each year was the relationships he made. He took solace in the “amount of peace and comfort” he found talking to random people on The Mountain, and making connections with people all over the country; these connections are even harder to leave behind, making closing ceremonies his favorite bittersweet moment at CONA.

“All these people are going back to their states and you have to have to say goodbye to them,” Haleem said. “You are just clinging onto the last moment.”

Off The Mountain, Haleem is studying economics and history with hopes to go on to law school. He plans to work as a lawyer for a nonprofit organization and eventually make his way back home to Massachusetts to run for office. As the week continues, he hopes he can give back to the program that has meant so much to him and carry on the legacy of the people he has met in YIG that have shaped his life.

By Erin Gretzinger, WI