Y and G national qualifiers group pic.jpg

Cleburne High School 2019 graduates, from left, Arturo Rolon, Tarek Arouse, Caleb Barkman and Jack Bennett will be in Chicago this week as qualifiers in the YMCA Youth and Government National Judicial Competition. The two Cleburne teams placed among the top six in the Texas Appellate Team contest to advance to the national level of competition. 

Four Cleburne High School graduates buzzed into the Windy City Monday to compete in the Appellate Team event at the YMCA Youth and Government National Judicial Competition.

Tarek Arouse, Arturo Rolon, Caleb Barkman and Jack Bennett, accompanied by faculty sponsor Matthew Moulden, will spend much of the week in Chicago as the top competitors at the Texas Youth and Government contest, which advanced them to the national event. The team of Arouse and Rolon placed fourth in state, closely followed by Barkman and Bennett.

The opportunity to compete at nationals has been a mission, a goal and a dream for these Cleburne “Yaggers” who came to the youth and government program as juniors. Bennett is even newer to the mix, coming on board in his senior year.

Going up against seasoned competitors from across north Texas, Arouse, Rolon and Barkman racked up the points in their courtroom skills at their first Y and G district contest in 2017 to qualify for state. They learned a lot from the state experience and vowed they’d be back and continue on to nationals as seniors.

“I learned so much at state in that first year,” Barkman said. “It was an eye-opening experience. Our team barely missed the cutoff to go on to the national competition and I admit to some hunger in wanting to advance this year.”

Barkman, who has been awarded the Ball Scholarship to Baylor University, represents the second generation in his family to participate in youth and government. His father, attorney Patrick Barkman, was among the CHS competitors who reigned over Texas youth and government from the 1970s into the early 1990s.

Barkman, along with Arouse and Rolon, have been instrumental in the revival of youth and government at CHS, and have contributed to the heritage of success in the program, touted by the YMCA as a “laboratory in citizenship and government” in providing students with opportunities for involvement in the democratic process.

For Arouse, who served as the valedictorian of the CHS Class of 2019, youth and government has had such an impact, he now plans to study law following graduation from The University of Texas.

“It was such a fantastic surprise to finish that high at state as a first-timer last year,” he said. “I have discovered a greater interest in government and law, and can attribute that to youth and government. Going on to nationals was always in the back of my mind. At the state contest this year, when Arturo and I saw our names on the screen as having placed fourth, it was such a surprise. I have learned so much about the legal system and had so much fun competing. It’s been a great ride.

“The whole Youth and Government experience has left me inclining to go on to law school. I really like the whole mock trial thing. I can see me really getting into it in college and moving forward.”

Rolon, who will also be attending The University of Texas, was concerned at one point that nationals would remain a dream.

“The first day of this year’s state contest we didn’t do that well,” he said. “We fell below our expectations. We worked so hard that night and went back on day two and did our very best. When they announced the first place appellate team, then second and third I was getting really nervous. But then Tarek and I saw our names on the board and we were fourth. The top six teams go on to nationals—and up came Caleb and Jack. It was so great.

“Tarek has been an amazing partner, who really motivates me. It was our goal to do the best we could, and if that meant going to nationals, we met the goal and then some. We just wanted to do our best.”

It may be Bennett’s first year to be involved in youth and government, but it will be his second year to represent CHS in national competition. As a junior, he competed at the Technology Student Association National Conference in a video skills team event.

All four “Yaggers” have worked hard to line up future competitors in Youth and Government who will carry on both the program — and the success — they have re-established at CHS.

“This was such a big deal at CHS years ago,” Moulden said. “These young men have worked very hard in bringing new students into the program and I am very proud of all they have accomplished. They have definitely made their mark in Youth and Government and as students, now graduates, of CHS. Their futures are very bright.”

 

 

 

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