By Rachel Hauschildt and Marshall Laidlaw, Aerie staff writers

ST. PAUL - When all 81 delegates from Red Wing - along with delegates from all other delegations around the state - entered Youth in Government on Jan. 10, they were told that "Democracy must be learned by each generation." It is a phrase Cayanne Korder, a Red Wing delegate and youth governor of the conference, repeated many times throughout the weekend. These words held true before the weekend began and now hold a greater significance after the conference has concluded.

Youth in Government started out as a mock legislative program designed to pique an interest in government. Over the years, this program expanded to include a judicial branch, lobbyists, various media platforms, and an executive branch. Eventually this simple program grew into a complex and fundamental experience that this year included over 1,600 students from all over Minnesota and a part of western Wisconsin.

Lauren Marshall, a current RWHS sophomore said, "This has been the best year yet! I've had so much fun and lots of new, amazing experiences."

Many other students from Red Wing had wonderful experiences throughout the weekend, learning how the government works and how to function as mock government employees (even during a real federal government shutdown). All participants held strong during the intense hours of programming and night activities, including debating bills, presenting cases, solving the puzzle of homelessness in a special statewide issue bill, watching-or participating in-a town hall debate, or enjoying the talent show.

Through Youth in Government, we are taught so much in so little time. The Y core values of honesty, responsibility, respect, and caring may shape the program, but what we get out of it is the ability to make new friends and be open to new possibilities.

Anya Roth is a sophomore who has attended Youth in Government for three years. She commented, "YIG has taught me a lot of skills so far, but the best quality I achieved was being more open - open about making new friends and open about voicing my opinions."

Five students from Red Wing ran for elected office with four winning their races of positions in the 2020 Model Assembly. David and Justin Scheerer made history being the first set of twins to both run and win the election for youth governor and lieutenant governor respectivity. Marshall Laidlaw won the election to be secretary of state, and Allison Callstrom won the title of media director for next year. The other RWHS candidate was Joseph Carrick.

These continue a recent winning streak for Red Wing, with senior Cayanne Korder serving as youth governor and sophomore Caleb Korder serving as president of Ramsey Senate at the 2019 conference.

Youth in Government has changed the lives of many of the participates.

Justin Scheerer, a junior, stated, "It was absolutely amazing. There is no extracurricular activity that has changed me more than YIG. I am so grateful that I have been able to be a part of this program."

Justin is not the only one who feels this way.

Youth Governor Korder said, "Through YIG I've found confidence in my abilities as a leader, discovered an interest in politics, and traveled further than I've ever been before. My future path was literally changed because of the people I met in Youth in Government. And I know I can leave knowing the program will continue to positively influence delegates for years to come."

At Youth in Government, each student was given the chance to stand up for what he or she believes in, make connections with other delegates, and participate in democracy.

Delegation director for Red Wing Tori Miller said, "I'm just so amazed by the work these students put in. They're on top of their game, they're passionate, and they're educated. The thing that really sticks out to me though is their interactions with each other and everyone else at the conference. They're just all incredibly kind, well rounded students."

Many of these students may become future political leaders and Supreme Court judges, but for now, they have to get through high school.