Walter Johnson goes to Washington


Photo courtesy of Alina Kahn

Every April, YAG members from across Maryland meet for the Annapolis conference. This year, WJ’s chapter hopes to incorporate more lobbying opportunities throughout the year.

When most kids skip school, you can be sure to find them at the mall or in front of the TV. This couldn’t be further from the truth for a uniquely driven group of WJ students, who have an entirely different activity in mind for this Friday.

WJ’s Youth and Government club is perfect for any student interested in all things government. The club is broken up into legislative, lobbying, press and court groups, so any politically-oriented individual can find their niche. Students with a passion for legislation research, write and present bills at conferences throughout the year, leading up to the three day state conference in Annapolis in April. Lobbyists support or oppose said bills, court students go through the legal process and press writes about everything that goes on at these conferences.

“We’re trying to introduce more people into those other three parts, because most people do legislative,” junior (and YAG vice president) Olivia Zaid said.

Until now, the legislative category has dominated the club’s weekly meetings, eclipsing all other options and alienating possible new members who are interested in the club, but not in writing bills. This year, things are going to change.

“This year we introduced a lobbying program where we’re going to go to Capitol Hill [to lobby] for issues that [we’re] passionate about,” sophomore Andres Zalowitz said.

Zalowitz joined YAG this year after asking social studies teacher Tim Rodman about lobbying opportunities at WJ. The stars seemed to align, as Zalowitz became involved just as current members were eager to expand the club’s reach. Zalowitz worked with club officers to come up with a way to incorporate lobbying, and their brainstorms resulted in this Friday’s trip.

“Lobbying is when you go talk to your representatives about issues you care about,” junior and YAG president Alina Kahn said.

For the past few weeks, the club has been preparing by breaking members into groups based on issues that are important to them, such as climate change, gun control and medicare. Those groups then research a bill on the topic that is currently going through the legislative process. Then, the students identify and contact Members of the House who will be voting on said bill, hoping to get a meeting with them to convince them to support it.

“You usually don’t talk to the congressmen, you talk to their staff,” Kahn said.

Nevertheless, the trip still promises to be an enriching experience for these civil service hopefuls, as they’ve managed to secure a tour of the Capitol from Maryland representative Jamie Raskins’s office.