I’ve been waiting to post about this so I could collect my thoughts and reflect on this past year of Youth and Government as a whole (I can’t believe it’s over already), but the time is finally here. If you’re unfamiliar with Youth and Government, it’s a youth model legislature and court program through the YMCA. The California Y&G program has two weekend-long statewide training conferences and the culmination to the year is the statewide conference in Sacramento, which was a full 6-day trip (the actual conference activities are only 4 days). Whatever delegation you are in will meet weekly throughout the program to inform you on debate topics, politics, and other aspects of the program, as well as just have fun.
I joined my local Y&G delegation this year not knowing what to expect, but it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I became so much closer with a few people I’ve been acquaintances with at school for a while, and I met so many amazing and genuine people from other schools in my area. I’m a pretty shy person but I’ve always been interested in politics, government, and law, so it seemed like a great way to get out of my comfort zone- I was right. The Sacramento conference was absolutely exhausting and amazing in every way. I was in the Appellate Court program so I got to present a court case, and my partner and I actually won!
During the conference, you’re mainly going to sessions for whatever specific program area you’re in. You get meal breaks and you can eat with your friends wherever you want within the boundaries of the program (a few blocks in downtown, plenty of places to go), and you’re responsible for walking everywhere and getting to sessions and getting ready. It was so fun to be independent and wearing business clothes in the city- I felt so old! It also bonded my delegation together even more than I thought it would. 24/7 for basically a week with people really bonds you, especially when you’re having fun and making incredible memories doing something super unique that most kids your age don’t get to do. There’s also a few joint sessions, and it’s amazing to see people speak in front of the whole 4000 person program.
Another highlight of the week for me was when my delegation had elections for our officer team next year. Someone nominated me for president- I gave my speech and didn’t win, but someone else nominated me for campaign manager, which I ran for and won the position!! I was really hoping to get an officer position since I want to get way more involved in the program next year since I now know how much I love it, but I didn’t actually expect to get anything. I’m so thankful to have been elected since I’ve never had a real, concrete leadership position/title in anything before, and it made me feel a lot more confident in my abilities to be a leader in some way throughout the program.
This program is so inspiring and it really does change lives. I can’t say that I’ve completely transformed and become a different person who speaks in front of thousands of people easily, but I have witnessed it do so to others, and I can only hope to work towards that same transformation in the future. If you’re at all interested in debating, politics, law, government, or even just having fun and learning about all of the above a little bit to see if you like it, I highly suggest you join the program. It’s not just for people who are experts on these topics or overachievers or the loud ones in every room- there’s truly a place for everyone within the program and if you join you will find yours.
Sacramento’s also just a genuinely cool place. I haven’t been to Northern California since I was little and I’ve never been to Sacramento, so it was super cool to tour the Capitol and actually be arguing a court case inside of it. There were lots of good restaurants, and I loved the feeling of being independent in the city. It definitely affirmed my desire to live in a big city one day. My delegation got there a day early so we could tour Old Town Sacramento, and we had a lot of fun bonding times there.
I hope you enjoyed hearing about my experience, and I hope you consider joining Y&G if you’re still in high school and it’s available near you. If you’re out of high school and this still sounds amazing, they also have intern and volunteer opportunities that sound amazing- I would totally consider being an intern for the program in college. Regardless, thank you to the YMCA and to Y&G for helping me discover a new part of myself and for giving me the best memories with the best people at conferences. I can’t wait for next year!