One Thomas County Central High School student will occupy a front row seat in a statewide program that builds an understanding of government amongst youth.
Senior Langley Wooten, 16, has been chosen to serve as this year’s Georgia Youth Assembly’s lieutenant governor. The position is an unexpected honor to Wooten: Jeremy Austin, state program director for Georgia Youth Assembly through Georgia YMCA, contacted her directly and asked she fill the spot.
“He said that I was his first pick and that he really hoped I could do it,” Wooten recalls. “How he knows about me is last year I ran for speaker of the house at Youth Assembly, but I did not receive the position. He remembered me and thought this position would suit me.”
Wooten’s first thought upon hearing Austin’s offer: “whoa.” Although she was not initially familiar with all of the office's responsibilities, she was thrilled with the opportunity to serve. So, she said yes and jumped on board.
In short, Georgia Youth Assembly is a weekend when high school students get to become the state government. Participants are able to see how legislative and judicial systems run.
“We follow the procedures of our real state government and we pass bills that kids have written specifically for this,” Wooten explains. “We get to hold leadership roles and basically act as the government.”
Wooten became exposed to this event through her participation in TCCHS Student Ambassadors, an organization sponsored by teacher Joshua Niswonger dedicated to promoting the importance of youth participation in community service and in better understanding how government runs at all levels.
Georgia Youth Assembly was not familiar to Wooten prior to her visit last school year. However, it had a profound impact upon her.
“Once I got there, I realized how interesting it was, and learning how everything worked actually made me interested in a possible career in political science,” she said.
The job of lieutenant governor includes acting as the Senate chair and presiding over all floor debate as well as joint assemblies between the House and Senate at Youth Assembly, being a strong and focused leader to all YMCA programs’ participants, and serving on the district council where the seat-holder resides.
The position is a year-long commitment. Office holders must attend multiple conferences throughout the year, attend regional meetings and attend weekend leadership retreats, to name a few responsibilities.
Wooten is extremely excited to have been afforded this opportunity. She’s also a little scared.
“I’m scared – honestly – because I have to be in front of everybody so much,” she explains. “It’s a very big responsibility, and I have a lot of things I have to memorize, but I know that it will be a lot of fun.”
The aspects of the job Wooten most anticipates are seeing and interacting with other officials and friends she’s made through her Georgia Youth Assembly experiences, as well as garnering more knowledge about the inner workings of political science.
“The people I serve with and I have met through this are beyond amazing, and they are friends that I will keep,” she said. “I’m also looking forward to learning more about the government and how it works and seeing if political science is really a career I would like to pursue.”
The high school senior encourages other youth to take an interest in politics and government.
“It is something that happens in our world every day, and as a democracy, it is the people’s responsibility to help make these choices for our government,” Wooten said.