More than two dozen students from public and private high schools and colleges across the Cayman Islands have begun a half year training programme ahead of the 2020 Youth Parliament.
The young participants aged 13-17 years are receiving intensive coaching from the staff and Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) ahead of the Youth Parliament Debate next Commonwealth Day. For the first time they also have the benefit of partnerships with the Cayman Islands Youth Assembly and the Cayman Islands Civil Service Toastmasters Association.
Chair of the organising committee of members of the legislative assembly since 2017 Barbara Conolly says: “Getting to know the students and introducing them to the procedures that govern the law-making branch of Government is always an exciting time for us. We also look forward to the new partnerships and how this will help to enhance our work here which aims to develop the political and civic future of the Cayman Islands”
The Cayman Islands Youth Assembly is a similar group of students coordinated by Government’s Youth Services Unit that meets during the school year to raise awareness of young people’s role in the community and the social issues that affect them. As part of this process they typically research and develop two discussion papers a year to be shared with Government.
In 2019-2020 these papers will be produced in tandem with the Youth Parliament and provide a foundation for the young people’s Commonwealth Day debate. Past motions by the Youth Parliament have looked at the establishment of a public transportation system, residential qualifications for MLAs, banning of single use plastic and implementing a juvenile detention and youth rehabilitation centre. Meanwhile past papers by the Youth Assembly have looked at topics ranging from youth advocacy and bullying to overdevelopment and the Cayman environment.
Work with the Toastmasters’ Association meanwhile will focus on strengthening the students’ public presentation and leadership skills ahead of the 2020 event. These are of course the same abilities that the club works to promote in its own membership.
While the topics of the Commonwealth Day meeting have yet to be decided this year’s Youth Parliamentarians have a busy four months ahead of them. On the agenda so far have been discussions about the roles of persons of Parliamentary staff, as well as lessons on the rules that govern the House and the legislation for which it is responsible.
Youth Assembly representatives have also visited to discuss potential topics.
In addition to Ms Conolly, members of this year’s Youth Parliament organising committee include George Town Central MLA Kenneth Bryan, West Bay North MLA Bernie Bush, George Town West MLA David Wight and Newlands MLA Alva Suckoo.
Ms Conolly notes that the students still have an increasingly intensive agenda ahead of them.
“The young people will hold their own elections to determine who gets to fill what role on the day and then decide what topics they will cover. They will also learn about motions, bills and debates and receive intense training on public speaking. It is a rewarding experience for us but also for the young people, which is why so many of them return year after year,” she explains.
Students are drawn from public and private high schools on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac as well as the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre and University College of the Cayman Islands. Young people from Cayman Brac telecommute to the weekly training sessions.
The top performing students at the Cayman Islands event will be selected for participation in the regional and international youth parliaments next year.