ALBANY- School marched to the front of the room, crowded with roughly 650 of her peers, to accept her appointment as youth governor at the annual New York State Youth and Government Conference in Albany earlier this month.
Hughes is the first student in 15 years to give her local district, district three, a youth governor election win. District three is comprised of schools from Newcomb, Bolton, Minerva, Johnsburg and Ticonderoga as well as members from the Glens Falls YMCA.
Youth and Government is a national club initiated by the YMCA in states across the country. Participating students mock the actual happenings in each branch of US government. The goal of Youth and Government is to empower teens to make a difference in their communities and to groom the skills and experiences necessary for future leaders.
"It was a very successful year for the district," said Jackie Palandrani, district advisor.
Other awards included Taylor Goodspeed of Newcomb Central School winning his election for deputy speaker of the freedom assembly. Hughes was joined by Evan Malone and Charlotte Caldwell of Bolton as selected students for this years Conference on National Affairs, which will take place in North Carolina this June. Madlyn Wilson of Bolton and Katie Palandrani of Ticonderoga were chosen as alternates. Carl Ciccarelli, Matt Smith, Marisa Parotta and Matthew Hayden also received branch-specific awards.
"The high point this year was definitely Paige's victory," said district advisor Ted Caldwell. "For a North Country girl to take over the governor position is pretty remarkable."
Local students met earlier this year to hone their skills before the state-wide conference and their work has seemed to pay off.
"These conferences are such a great experience for the students," said Johnsburg advisor Colleen Muragh. "It prepares them for coming conferences as well as college and beyond."
Caldwell was also eager to commend the youth-led conference on how it prepares students for their future. As the program grows each year, it becomes clear why it should still be around, he said.
"It enables these students to speak out about important issues," added Caldwell. "The program and what it teaches can lead to full time jobs."
Mike Quigan graduated form Bolton Central School in 2005 and was a member of Youth and Government throughout high school. He now works in Albany as a budget analyst in the state Ways and Means Committee for the minority party.
"Youth and Government is the single most important part of why I am doing what I am doing," he said. "I come acrosss things all the time that I learned in Youth and Government."
The program strives to give students an in-depth look at the government process and they are both accurate and successful, according to Quigan. He met with local students while they were in Albany and reminded them of this, while encouraging them to get as involved with the program as they possibly can during high school.