Making Democracy Work

Youth Programs

Running and Winning 2017

At "Running and Winning," Women Elected Officials Encourage Teen Girls to Seek Community Service and Elected Office

The soaring height of the YWCA meeting room was a fitting place for the Sixth Annual "Running and Winning" workshop [April 27, 2017] during which 16 women elected officials shared with 40 outstanding high school girls their journeys from volunteer work and assisting others before becoming elected officials.

The workshop was sponsored by three women's group known for empowering women: The League of Women Voters of Westchester, the American Association of University Women of Westchester, and the YWCA of Central Westchester in White Plains. It was funded by the Westchester Community Foundation.

During the morning session, the officials briefly told the girls their stories and then individually sat with groups of girls to talk further as each table began preparing for the afternoon session. The girls, a diverse group from 21 high schools, planned political campaigns based on running for office on an environmental issue, choosing a candidate and dividing up the different jobs in a campaign. In the afternoon session, each group presented its campaign and poster as the other groups listed attentively.

"I was very impressed by how engaged the girls were in planning their own campaigns," said Cheryl Feldman," LWVW Chair of "Running and Winning".

A common theme shared by elected officials with the students was that after years of volunteer work or a job assisting an elected or career official, most didn't think of running for office themselves until other people persuaded them to do so.

In contrast to men, "who can be very assertive about running for office, we have to be asked several times," said Virginia Perez, county legislator from Yonkers. "You have to be stronger, braver," and "face more scrutiny about your appearance."

But the advantage is that elected office gives women are effective at getting things done, especially on issues that women may see differently than men.

"I saw a lot of issues that needed to be taken care of," said Lorraine Walsh, mayor of the village of Larchmont. For Nancy Seligson, supervisor of the Town of Mamaroneck, the issue was the environment, and she realized she could accomplish more as an elected official.

"I wanted to have my own voice," said Shelley B. Mayer, state assemblywoman from Yonkers.

An indelible impression was made Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Democratic Conference Leader of the New York State Senate and first woman to lead a legislative conference in New York State. She did many things-- teaching, journalism, public relations, raising a family--before she was encouraged to run for office.

Also contributing to the discussion were State Assemblywoman Sandra Galef; County Legislators Catherine Borgia, Margaret A. Cunzio, Catherine Parker, Mary Jane Shimsky and Alfred A Williams; Town Supervisor Dana Levenberg of Ossining; and City Councilwomen Roberta L. Appuzzo from Mount Vernon, Julie Powers Killian of Rye, Milagros Lecuona and Nadine Hunt Robinson from White Plains.

Student evaluations were enthusiastic. Typical were comments such as "I look forward to excelling as a young leader," "This was an amazing opportunity," and "a really great experience."

Running and Winning 2017

Students Inside Albany - 2016

This year the LWV of Rivertowns, the LWV of Larchmont/Mararoneck and the LWV of Westchester (ILO) sent a total of five high school students to participate in the Students Inside Albany Conference from May 22nd - 25th.

From the left:

Sponsored by the LWV of Rivertowns: Robert Epstein, Ardsley High, 11th Grade; Amanda Prechtl, Montessori Academy, 11 Grade.

Sponsored by the LWV of Larchmont/Mamaroneck: Katie Lawless, Mamaroneck High, 12th Grade; Victoria Patti, Mamaroneck High, 12th Grade.

LWV of Westchester (ILO): Jennifer Tommmasino, Tuckahoe High, 11th Grade.

Running and Winning April 2016

The LWV of Westchester thanks the Westchester Community Foundation for its significant grant to finance Running and Winning 2016. Generous support was also received from the American Association of University Women."

Women Elected Officials Offer Teen Girls Advice on Community Involvement and on "Running and Winning". Fourteen women elected officials from Westchester County came to the White Plains YWCA recently [April 14] to share their stories once again with a new group of bright young women from Westchester schools for the Fifth Annual "Running and Winning" workshop held at the White Plains YWCA; co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Westchester, the American Association of University Women, and the White Plains YWCA; and funded by the Westchester Community Foundation.

"When I was your age, I never thought of running for office," Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Democratic Leader of the New York State Senate told the 37 young women from 20 different high schools. She had done many things-- teaching, journalism, public relations, raising a family before she was encouraged to run for office. She succeeded on her second try.

Most of the women officials had a track record of volunteering for community groups, organizing for change on issues they cared about, or working for other politicians before they were encouraged by others to run for office.

"Men run for office without thinking twice," said Ossining Town Supervisor Dana Levenberg, whose previous experience included PTA and a staff position in Assemblywomen Sandra Galef's office. "Someone has identified you as a leader, "she told the young women, who were chosen by their respective schools.

Mamaroneck Town Supervisor Nancy Seligson, after working at jobs she disliked, realized that she was passionate about the environment. She took a leadership role in founding the environmental group Save the Sound, which involved working with state and federal officials. "I wanted to make a difference environmentally," she said. Elected office empowers her to do that.

"Women bring a lot to the table," said County Legislator Catherine Parker. "We're all really, really smart. We work as consensus builders. We are good listeners."

The County Legislature is balanced with 8 women of 17 legislators, an above average number. Women make up about 19% of Congress and of the Senate and 24.5% or state legislatures in 2016; Other women elected officials who attended included Ruth Hassell Thompson, a legislator whose district straddles Westchester and the Bronx, New York State Assemblywomen Shelley B. Mayer and Amy Paulin; County Legislators Margaret A. Cunzio, Virginia M. Perez, and Mary Jane Shimsky;,newly elected Larchmont Mayor Lorraine Walsh, and City Councilwomen Roberta L. Appuzzo from Mount Vernon, Milagros Lecuona from White Plains, and Kathleen E. Talbot from Peekskill.

After listening to the elected officials' comments, students, in small groups, planned and presented mock political campaigns including a speech and poster. Students each played a role: candidate, campaign manager, speech writer, finance manager, or publicity director. The campaigns were centered on an environmental theme, and many of the girls researched their topics via their smart phones.

Student evaluations were positive. "Prior to coming to this event, I was unsure about wanting to pursue a career in politics, "wrote one student. "After hearing from the officials and working with the other girls, I realized that a career in politics actually is an attainable goal." "I think we were successful in giving the students a realistic understanding of the possibilities of public service and politics," said Cheryl Feldman, Running and Winning Chair.

The mission of the League of Women Voters is to encourage informed and active citizen participation in government. The American Association of University Women advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research; its programs for young women include a number of secondary school and college-level opportunities to develop leadership skills. The YWCA has a mission of eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all; it offers a wide variety of programs for young people encouraging their participation in their communities.

The mission of the Westchester Community Foundation,which funded the program, is to connect generous people to the causes they care about and invest in transformative ideas and organizations to improve lives and strengthen our community. WCF is a division of the New York Community Trust.

Students Inside Albany - 2015 (SIA)

Shanae Boothe & friends at Students Inside Albany 2015

The Westchester County League is pleased to announce that Shanae Boothe a Senior at Mount Vernon High School will be participating in the annual Students Inside Albany Conference. This Fall Shanae will be begin studies at the University of New Haven in pursuit of a degree in Forensic Science. Shanae is an active participant on the Varsity Tennis Team and the Advanced Placement Club. In addition she serves as Treasurer of the school's Action Store which sells supplies to students. Above, Shanae & friends on the steps of the NY State Capitol.

The Conference is sponsored by the League of Women Voters of New York State Education Foundation, Inc. This 15th annual Students Inside Albany program will take place from May 17-20th, and will bring approximately 60 students from across the state to Albany to get a first-hand education about their state government. The program is designed to increase high school students' awareness of their responsibility in representative government and provide information about the tools necessary for meeting that responsibility.

While at the conference, students will join their peers in a hands-on learning experience about how state government works. Students will participate in a series of interactive lectures on topics such as the state budget process, the role of lobbyists in the legislative process, citizen rights to access government information, the role of media in politics, and the move to reform state government. While in Albany, the students will have an opportunity to tour the state's Capitol. The highlight for Shanae will be the opportunity to shadow her State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson and her Assembly member Gary Pretlow for an afternoon attending session on the Chamber floor.

Both the League and Shanae of excited about this outstanding opportunity!

Shanae's letter to the LWV after her return from Albany: "Good Afternoon League Members,

Due to prior commitments I'm unable to be with you today. Let me take a brief moment to introduce myself. My name is Shanae Boothe. I'm a Senior at Mount Vernon High School who will be attending the University of New Haven this Fall to study Forensic Science. I would like to thank you for providing me with opportunity to participate in the Student Inside Albany Conference. The Conference provided me with the opportunity to experience the inner working of government first hand and proved to be quite an eye opener. Although I didn't walk away with an urge to run for office I did leave with a better understanding of the role we play as citizens and how every one's vote counts. I will be registering when I turn 18 and pledge to encourage others to register also.

Prior to this experience I had little knowledge of the League of Women Voters. I now have a fuller understanding and respect for what the League stands for especially your mission to educate voters.

On Monday we met with Assembly members. I was slightly nervous because of the grandeur of the chamber. I shadowed my Assemblymen Gary Pretlow for the day and would like to note how incredibly nice his Chief of Staff was. Assemblymen Pretlow made me feel comfortable and it turns out that he is extremely funny. It was amazing to see the number of women working in government. His Chief of Staff and Assistant Chief of Staff were both women. This opened my eyes to how far women have come since the passage of the 19th Amendment. I also enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the Chamber as I watched Assembly Members engaging with one another.

On Tuesday when we met with the Senators, I was a bit disappointed that I wasn't placed with Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson who represents my District because I wanted to talk to her about concerns affecting my school district from a student's perspective. I was introduced to her however there wasn't time to hold a conversation. I was placed with Senator Hoylman who was in conference for majority of the time. I went into conference twice that day which I hear is extremely rare! Senator Hoylman is a member of the Environmental Conservation Committee. The Senator had a bill that was going to be introduced that would ban the micro-beads in facial washes because they do not break down, in turn polluting the water. I appreciated the time that Senator Hoylman took to answer all my questions regarding procedures.

We also toured the Court of Appeals building briefly, and toured the portion of the courthouse where portraits of different judges are displayed.

Having a love of architecture I was in awe of the State office buildings which I found to be beautiful.

It was a pleasure meeting students was different parts of the State. The Conference allow all us to learn more about what it's like living in upstate versus downstate, tour of the Hudson River. The League did a lot of really nice things to keep us both busy and entertained including a bowling night and boat. When we arrived on Sunday we were all strangers by Wednesday we were all hugging and promising to keep in touch.

I would definitely advocate for the Westchester County League of Women Voters to provide another student from Mount Vernon High School to participate in this great program next year!"

SOMERS LWV

The Somers League of Women voters is delighted to sponsor Wesley Cash, a junior at Somers High School, to Students Inside Albany, which will be held May 17-20. SIA brings high school students around the state together to learn about New York government. As part of the interactive program, students tour the Capitol and observe the Senate and Assembly in action by spending an afternoon shadowing their legislator.

Wesley is the first junior to serve as SHS Student Council Executive Board President. He is in his second term on the New York State Council on Leadership and Student Activities Board. In addition to his leadership roles, Wesley is the head of lighting in the Technical Theatre Program at SHS. "I am honored and excited to attend the Students Inside Albany conference this May," says Wesley, "and very thankful to the League of Woman Voters for allowing me to experience this wonderful opportunity!"

WHITE PLAINS LWV

White Plains Students to go to Albany. Jacqueline Rayo and Vanessa Aceituno, both 11th grade students at White Plains High School, have been chosen to attend this year's Students Inside Albany program sponsored by the League of Women Voters of New York State Education Foundation, Inc. This 15th annual Students Inside Albany program will take place from May 17-20th, and will bring approximately 60 students from across the state to Albany to get a first-hand education about their state government. The program is designed to increase high school students' awareness of their responsibility in representative government and provide information about the tools necessary for meeting that responsibility.

While at the conference, students will join their peers in a hands-on learning experience about how state government works. Students will participate in a series of interactive lectures on topics such as the state budget process, the role of lobbyists in the legislative process, citizen rights to access government information, the role of media in politics, and the move to reform state government. While in Albany, the students will have an opportunity to tour the state's Capitol. The highlight for most students is the opportunity to shadow their Senators and their Assembly member for an afternoon attending session on the Chamber floor.

For more information on the League of Women Voter of New York State Education Foundation, Inc., or the Students Inside Albany program, please visit their website at: http://www.lwvny.org

NEW CASTLE LWV

Greeley Junior Melanie Leason has been selected by the League of Women Voters of New Castle (LWVNC) to attend the 2015 Students Inside Albany conference to be held from May 17 to 20, 2015 in Albany.

This student conference, sponsored by the League of Women Voters of New York State Education Foundation, Inc., is designed to increase students' awareness of their responsibility in a representative government and provide the tools necessary for meeting that responsibility. This interactive conference will bring together high school students from across the state to learn about New York State government and the process by which citizens can participate in the policy-making arena. As part of the program, students will also tour the Capitol and observe the Senate and Assembly in action by spending an afternoon shadowing their legislators.

Last year LWVNC sent Horace Greeley High School student Brandon Hilfer to the Students Inside Albany Conference. Brandon found attending the conference to be a very worthwhile experience and highly recommends the program to fellow students: "SIA was truly a life changing experience for me. I saw that our state government is comprised of many different vibrant, multi-faceted institutions. Individual personalities play an enormous role in these institutions' accomplishments. After my time in Albany, I am inspired to bring back the lessons I learned to Horace Greeley High School. As a student leader, I want to combat apathy by giving different sectors an organized way of sharing their views. SIA gave me the tools to strengthen my own community, and I am grateful to have participated in the conference."

Melanie will join other students sponsored by the over 50 local League of Women Voters chapters throughout New York State. Attendance is free: the LWVNC will provide train fare for the student to travel to Albany; all other costs of attending the conference, including three nights' accommodations at the Hotel Albany in downtown Albany, will be covered by the League of Women Voters of New York. All applicants will receive a student membership in the LWVNC and the winner will be invited to share their Conference experience with League members.

Picture taken by a Westchester student participating in the 2015 Students Inside Albany.

Above: the New York State Capitol, photo taken by Shanae Boothe, one of the Students Inside Albany, 2015

Several Westchester county students attended the 15th annual SIA program in May sponsored by the League of Women Voters of New York State Education Foundation, Inc. The program brings approximately 60 students from across the state to Albany to get a first-hand education about their state government. Students from Westchester County were sponsored by the LWV of Westchester County, LWV of White Plains, LWV of New Castle, LWV of Somers.

May 2015

Running and Winning - May 2015

Women Elected Officials Offer Teen Girls Advice on Community Involvement and Running and Winning

Group photo of workshop participants

Sixteen diverse Westchester women holding elected office met recently with a diverse group of 45 junior and senior girls representing 21 Westchester high schools, and shared the joys and frustrations of succeeding in what is still largely a male political world. They encouraged the girls to volunteer in their communities when they saw problems to be solved and consider running for office as the next step.

The officials spoke during the fourth annual "Running and Winning" workshop, recently [April 16. 2015] sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Westchester, the American Association of University Women of Westchester, and the YWCA of White Plains and Central Westchester, where it was held.

The longest serving official, Ruth Hassell Thompson, state senator from Mount Vernon and the Bronx, summed up a recurring theme, when she described years of volunteering in the community and working on campaigns: "For 40 years, I helped other women run for office. I saw that issues that were important were not being addressed." She describes herself as "a voice for the voiceless.... People who elect me, elect me to be their voice."

"Everything you do is affected by government," said Alfreda Williams, county legislator from Greenburgh.

Most of the women had professional careers and were raising families in addition to their community involvement. "It's a great thing to be involved in your community. It does matter" said Rye City Councilwoman Julie Killian, an engineer now raising five children.

Several officials pointed out that women bring a different and important perspective to politics: "I think that women look at problems differently than men," said Shari Rackman, a lawyer and New Rochelle councilwoman.

State Assemblywoman Sandra Galef, Ossining

After listening to the elected officials' comments, clusters of students planned and presented mock political campaigns including a poster. Selecting one student as a candidate, the others were campaign manager, speech writer, finance manager, or publicity director. The campaigns were centered on an environmental theme, and many of the girls researched their topics via their smart phones.

Team presenting their political campaign

"It was most interesting to see how well young women who just met worked together as a team and created a campaign," said Cheryl Feldman, Running and Winning Chair. "As one student commented, it gave her the opportunity to put herself in the shoes of a candidate and to understand how the campaign process works."

"Running and Winning" addressed the growing awareness of the need for more girls and women to develop their unique leadership potential. Women, 50.8 percent of the population, currently make up only 20 percent of the US Senate and 18.2 percent of the House, according to the Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics. Women hold 22.6 percent of legislative and top executive positions on the state level, including five governors.

May 2015

Student Inside Albany 2013 - Student Aaliyah Serrano writes:

Traveling to Albany and speaking to State Legislators had not been a foreign concept to me. For two years now, I've been student ambassador for the City of Mount Vernon, going to Albany to speak to our assemblyman and senator about the various issues that surround the youth of Mount Vernon.

But after experiencing Students Inside Albany, I learned it was not just about speaking to our legislators, but being an individual and standing up for our beliefs. It was about the role that one day the youth of today will have to fill and how to fully prepare for that. Through this trip, I made friends all throughout New York State that I will most likely have for a very long time. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to educate myself and experience things that I will carry with me through adulthood ... and, I look forward to future work with my local League.

Aaliyah Serrano posted June 27, 2013

Students Inside Albany - 2013

LWVW is a Sponsor for the Students in Albany Program, Enabling High School Students a Closer Look at How Our Government Functions

Selected high school students who have shown an interest in government will be able to to get an intense experience inside the halls of the New York state capitol thanks the League of Women Voters of New York State Education Foundation. At least nine Westchester high school students will be among dozens throughout the state who will meet with state legislators, staff people and lobbyists who are shaping state law.

They are part of students Inside Albany, April 14-17, 2013, an annual event. Each local League is invited to send a student whose expenses are paid for by the foundation, with support from sponsors: Civil Service Employees Association, Price Chopper's Golub Foundation, New York State United Teachers, ad Stewart's Shops. Local Leagues sometimes fund one or two additional students. Students' experiences include a tour of the state capitol, briefings on policy and issues, shadowing their local assemblyperson, and practice at citizen lobbying.

Students Inside Albany participants from Westchester, selected by local leagues, include the following: LWV Westchester, for the first time, will sponsor a student selected by the new Southern Westchester member-at-large group: Aalijah (Lea) Serrano, 12th grade, Mount Vernon High School. Scarsdale LWV: Harris Gurny, 12th grade; Veronica Dickson, 11th grade; and Jake Schechner, 11th grade, Scarsdale High School. Rye, Rye Brook, Port Chester LWV: Meg Stomski, 11th grade, Blind Brook High School; and Brian Kerr, 12th grade, Rye Neck High School. Larchmont-Mamaroneck LWV: Robert Phillips,12th grade, Mamaroneck High School. New Castle LWV: Jacob Bayer, 11th grade, Horace Greeley High School. New Rochelle LWV: Urenna Nwogwugwu, 12th grade, New Rochelle High School. To learn more about the program, go to http://lwvny.org/youth.html

Feb. 28, 2013