BALTIMORE — On Wednesday, March 3, the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education virtually welcomed more than 100 high school students from Allegany, Caroline, Dorchester, Harford, Howard, Kent, Montgomery, Prince George’s and Wicomico counties to its second annual Youth Congress Day in Annapolis. This group of students included representatives from MBRT’s programs, including Next Generation Scholars, Student Ambassador and Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. The goal of the day was to teach students about the legislative process and inspire students to become active in their communities.
“After a successful launch of our Youth Congress Day initiative in 2020, I’m incredibly proud of the team who worked so creatively together to ensure we could once again deliver a meaningful and engaging learning experience for Maryland students,” said Brian Dulay, executive director of MBRT. “For 30 years, we’ve been providing students with career choice information and college preparation, and Youth Congress Day has proven yet again an excellent opportunity for students to learn how different members of communities can work together — in-person or virtually — toward common goals.”Following warm greetings from Senate President Bill Ferguson (Baltimore City) and House Speaker Adrienne Jones (Baltimore County), who touted the benefits of such an event to the students, the Maryland Visitors Bureau showed a video that took students on a virtual tour of the Maryland State Capitol, including the Senate and House Office Buildings. In lieu of participating in a General Session viewing, MBRT arranged for the students to hold a mock legislative meeting during which the students reviewed and debated Senate Bill 127, Institutions of Higher Education – Use of Criminal History in Admission – Modifications, originally introduced Jan. 13, by Senators Patterson and Augustine.
Ten of MBRT’s student ambassadors held significant roles at Youth Congress Day. Gabriela Holzer (Prince George’s County) presided over the legislative meeting as Speaker of the House, and Sriya Sogal (Montgomery County) served as President of the Senate. Together, Holzer and Sogal introduced the bill, and Abigayle Spangler (Allegany County) and Rip T. Cornish (Dorchester County) read the bill to the entire student group. The group then split into two breakout rooms with Jenna Dameus (Wicomico County), Ryan Lassiter (Prince George’s County), Syncere Turner (Caroline County), and Heath Hutchinson (Harford County) serving as group leaders to moderate discussion and promote healthy debate among student participants. Gianna Athavale (Howard County) and Ronald Parker III (Kent County) served as secretaries to take notes for their respective groups.
Following a lunch break featuring DJ Heir Raid and a trivia based on legislative questions, students reconvened and each group presented their argument for or against the bill. After Athavale and Parker called for the vote, the students promptly cast their ballots resulting in the resolution being adopted with 89% who voted for and 10% who voted against the bill.
“I learned how I can get involved with our local government, and I also learned how I can get my voice heard by my local government,” said Brianna Pinder, a junior at Cambridge-South Dorchester High School.
“I liked the engaging conversations we all had,” added Megan Wilson, also a junior at Cambridge-South Dorchester High School. “No matter our differences, we put them together to form one big idea.”
“I liked that I was able to discuss my opinion on issues that are currently affecting Maryland,” said Avalon Robuck, a sophomore at North Caroline High School.
“I learned how to become more active in the community and what I can do,” added David Huijara, a junior at Colonel Richardson High School.
For 30 years, MBRT has been connecting the business community with local schools through its Maryland Scholars Speakers Bureau and STEM Specialists in the Classroom programs.
In 2017, MBRT added the Next Generation Scholars program, which provides funding through the Howard P. Rawlings Maryland Guaranteed Access Grant, administered by the Maryland Higher Education Commission, to enhance education and career awareness as well as college completion for high school students with a demonstrated financial need.