COSTA MESA — A delegation of Estancia High School students returned Monday from Sacramento where they spent five days doing the jobs of senators, lobbyists and a trial court defense attorney.
Estancia sent 19 students to the state YMCA Youth & Government's 63rd annual Model Legislature & Court conference, a mock legislature and judicial government where students learn how the process works by doing it themselves.
Students wrote and introduced bills, covered the proceedings as print or broadcast journalists and lobbied legislators to support or kill a bill as the worked in the State Capitol building. Estancia was also honored as a premier delegation for the first time.
"It gives them a much more hands on approach to understanding state-level politics," said advisor Jennifer Broderick, who also teaches social science at Estancia.
Corona del Mar High School also sent a delegation to the conference.
Estancia's delegation introduced two bills at the conference: one to fund sections of state highway repairs through billboard sponsorships, and another to improve nutrition in schools, Broderick said.
It was the second bill that caused a debate on having soda and candy in schools, she said.
"I think it's really enlightening for them to see how the process works," she said.
Both of the bills failed, but student-introduced bills have ended up as legislation, chaperone Judy Franco, a Newport-Mesa Unified School District trustee, has said.
Senior Jordan Young, 18, worked at the state constitutional convention writing proposals to change the constitution.
"I figured it would be good to learn about the different ways it can be changed," he said.
While in Sacramento, Young said he had an hour or two to write a proposal that he would then try to get passed.
He wrote one trying to change the property tax cap from 2% to 5% and another to require all high school teachers to have master's degrees, he said, adding that neither was passed.
"It was a good learning experience," he said.
Being in Youth & Government at Estancia has been a chance for Young to learn more about state politics, he said.
What started as a club about five years ago has turned into a class that meets at lunch and after school, Broderick said.
Young started in the club his freshman year and then got more involved, attending conferences and camps.
Although he became interested in politics in high school, Young said he has no further political ambitions right now.
Many of the students, though, do go on to careers in public service, Broderick said.
The Sacramento trip was the last big travel conference of the year, but Broderick will be taking a group of students to the nation's capital in June, she said.