Youth Legislative Assembly open for applications

Published 7:30 pm Thursday, January 7, 2016

The 46th annual Youth Legislative Assembly in Raleigh is coming up in early April, and Gov. Pat McCrory is already asking for applicants.

Last year’s program welcomed 220 students from 95 schools in 49 counties, according to a press release.

And one of those students came from right here in Beaufort County.



Thomas Barr, 16, a junior at Beaufort County Early College High School and a Chocowinity resident, said YLA is a three-day event run by high school students in which participants form mock legislative committees, draft bills and present them on the floor.

“You have the same debate you would have on the Senate floor, the House floor,” he said.

Students who wish to apply for YLA must have a legislative sponsor, and Barr said he was contacted by Sen. Bill Cook’s office about the opportunity. Cook also offered to sponsor him last year.

Barr has a substantial history in Raleigh, considering he is only 16 years old. He has served as a Senate page twice in the past year or so, and served as the governor’s page last summer.

For him, it’s the people who keep him coming back to the state capital.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to do networking,” Barr said. “It’s a lot of well-rounded people. … I still talk to the people I was a Senate page with when I was 15.”

Based on of his background serving as a page, Barr said he thinks YLA is a rewarding experience because instead of just watching legislators in action, participants are actually playing the role of legislator.

“I felt like I was prepared,” he said, in light of his background. “I knew how to ask questions on the floor. I knew how to conduct myself.”

Barr said the opportunity to see what is outside of Beaufort County was important to him.

By participating in a mock legislature, students see first hand how lawmakers work and why the lawmaking process takes so much time. They are also able to meet directly with the state’s legislators.

Erica Gallion, YLA coordinator, said she has already spoken with Sen. Cook’s office, and he plans to promote the program throughout the county.

“This event is open to students across the state of North Carolina. I hope some students from Beaufort (County) will participate,” she said.

“I would say take the opportunity, definitely. No hesitation,” Barr said. “You feel really welcome when you get there.”

For more information, call YLA Coordinator Erica Gallion at 919-807-4406. Applications are being accepted through Feb. 19 on a first-come, first-served basis.