YMCA Youth & Government Programs
Founded in 1947, the YMCA Youth Legislature provides the opportunity to experience the democratic process firsthand. Throughout the year, participants learn how to research public policy issues, write legislation, practice public speaking and debate skills, and work together to achieve a goal. Assuming the roles of Senator, Representative, lobbyist, and reporter, they meet in a four-day legislative session presided over by their statewide elected officials.
The YMCA Mock Trial program allows students to participate in a true-to-life courtroom drama. Each team of attorneys and witnesses prepares the case for trial before a real judge in an actual courtroom. A “jury” of attorneys rates teams on their presentations while the presiding judge rules on the merits. Participants develop critical thinking and analytical skills, learn the art of oral advocacy, and gain a respect for the role of law and the judiciary.
Conference on National Affairs (CONA)
This program offers unusual opportunities for a young person to do research in the area of National and International concern; to organize this information into a documented proposal; to engage in intensive discussion and to debate these proposals with understanding young people from other states.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
Over the past five years YMCA Youth & Government has worked to increase opportunities for middle school age students to participate in the Youth Legislature program. The focus of these efforts was both on the quality of programs offered and expanding opportunities to students in under served populations and communities. In this time our "8th Grade Senate" has become our fastest growing program component, and the majority of new participants in this area are coming from low income districts.
In part because of our success in offering additional programing to students in areas with fewer resources YMCA Youth & Government has seen requests for financial assistance more than double in the past year. It is critical that we look to additional funding opportunities in order to continue offering high quality programs to students from all socioeconomic backgrounds.