Three Jamestown High School students, Jomar Gomez, Jeany Melendez and Marcos Melendez were chosen to attend the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute in Albany on March 23rd to 26th. The students recently returned from training for the Western New York Delegation in Buffalo. Where they focused on identification and research of local issues, studied the NYS legislative process, parliamentary procedure and selected bills, and prepared issue papers with recommendations.
“We are representing the WNY delegation in Albany and it just so happens that the event that sparked this bill happened in WNY,” said Ms. Melendez who is attending for her second year. “The focus will be on us when we debate the bill in Albany.”
The students will debate five real NYS Assembly bills while in Albany. The WNY delegation, consisting of 17 students will debate bill #A06604, which requires provisions in schools that prohibit harassment, intimidation or bullying whether by electronic communication or a written, verbal or physical act.
The Puerto Rican/Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute is an innovative program sponsored by the NYS Senate/Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force in conjunction with the annual Somos El Futuro Legislative Conference. It has been in existence since 1990 and was dedicated to the memory of the Honorable Angelo Del Toro in 1995. Over 200 students from 12 delegations statewide will take part in key activities which include team-building exercises to develop inter-regional relationships, college and career development workshops, a youth rally, a student delegate recognition dinner where winners of the PR/HYLI scholarships and other awards are announced, a Youth Forum with NYS legislators, and the Mock Assembly session which is conducted in the NYS Assembly chamber.
“You learn to work as a team and connect with many other students from across New York,” said Mr. Gomez who is attending for a second year. “The bills we debate are real-life and you get a definite idea of what it is like to be in the Assembly. I plan to become an attorney so this is great training for me.”
The overall purpose of the PR/HYLI is student empowerment. To this end the Institute has the following goals for its student delegates:
• to develop leadership skills
• to gain an understanding of the NYS legislative process by participation in research and the development of legislative proposals
• to gain an understanding of responsible citizenship
• to create opportunities for interaction with positive role models such as elected officials and other adult professionals
• to promote a dialogue between youth and community leaders concerning issues that affect Hispanic youth
“I am going to the Institute for the first time this year,” said Mr. Melendez. “I hope that it helps to build up my self-confidence and teamwork skills.”