YMCA Youth & Government is a national program of the Y that involves thousands of teens nationwide in state-organized, model-government programs. Students from every corner of the U.S. have the opportunity to immerse themselves in experiential civic engagement and to, quite literally, practice democracy. Teens from across every state meet in their local Youth in Government groups throughout the year to discuss and debate issues that affect citizens of their state and to propose legislation. The program culminates with teens serving as delegates at their state conference, debating bills on the floor of the legislature.

New York State YMCA Youth & Government provides the education, the problem-solving experience, and the social arena for New York’s future leaders to develop and strengthen their skills and confidence to better serve their communities. The program begins at the local level, where young people identify a community issue of concern, with the assistance of their local YMCA or Youth & Government affiliated school. The participants conduct extensive research on their issue and write a document based on their findings. Local attorneys and government officials are consulted during this process. After the documents have been presented at the District conference, they are sent to the New York State Youth & Government Model Legislative Program.

The second stage of the program is the District Conference. Participants are trained in parliamentary procedure, legislative committee process, debate, press relations, and lobbying techniques. At this level, a judicial seminar or model Appellate Court is conducted for the students participating in the judicial program.

The third stage is the Albany Model Legislative Weekend. Every Spring, participants travel to Albany to implement the Youth & Government program events in the authentic surroundings of the State Capitol, the Legislative Office Building and the Judicial Building. The Albany weekend culminates several months of hard work for participants; for three intensive days, they become completely immersed in the political process.

Every participant involved in the program has a specific responsibility. Students may participate as legislators, or may become involved in the executive or judicial programs or as a lobbyist, press corps member or page.

The fourth stage of the program takes place when the delegates meet with their local representatives to lobby for bills passed by the legislature, resolutions of Judicial Conference and executive actions proposed in the Executive Report. More than 80 current New York State laws were first introduced in the New York State Youth & Government Legislature.

The final stage of the process is the Spring Conference for Youth Officers and Outstanding Participants. The Youth Leadership Group meet again in Albany with the purposes of visiting government officials, evaluating the previous conference, and receiving training and preparation to become delegates to the National Affairs Conference and National Youth Governors Conference. The Spring Conference is also the starting point of every year’s program.