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YMCA Youth and Government™ is a nationwide civic engagement and servant leadership program that provides students in high school with the opportunity to represent and serve their communities through model government, leadership and professional development, advocacy, and service-learning.

Y Youth and Government™, dates back to the late 1930s. It involves thousands of teens nationwide in state-organized model-government programs. In Youth and Government programs, teens from across the state meet in their local clubs throughout the year to discuss and debate issues that affect citizens of their state and to propose possible legislation to make state government more efficient.


The program culminates with the teens serving as delegates at their state conference, debating bills on the floor of the legislature. As a result of the program, young people learn about the democratic system and are trained in parliamentary procedure, legislative committee process, debate, press relations, and lobbying techniques. Delegates learn by doing and have the opportunity to try their hand at leadership in an open and receptive learning environment.


Youth and Government collectively serves over 55,000 students through 42 state programs across the country, including Washington, DC.

Students can participate through a Youth and Government student organization at their school and/or through their local YMCA. These school-based or YMCA-based groups are led by student officers, and advised by school faculty, community volunteers, and/or YMCA staff.


Click here for a brief history of the YMCA Youth and Government program since its founding in the 1930s. 



Program Goal: To develop young men and women who will be better citizens by being both knowledgeable and active in determining the future of our democracy



  • To provide training and experience in understanding the legislative process

  • To develop critical thinking and analytical abilities

  • To provide active participation in the legislative process

  • To develop interpersonal communication skills

  • To provide awareness of social issues and their possible solutions

  • To provide opportunities to hear and respect varying viewpoints

  • To encourage active participation in political and public affairs



1. Leadership training

2. Public speaking and critical writing workshops

3. Community activism, civic engagement, and applying political leverage

4. Academic enhancement through the development of research, reading, and writing skills

​For more information, contact Oregon State Youth and Government Director, Marisa Fink at executive@oregonymcas.org

Where can I join a YMCA Youth and Government program in Oregon?

Dayton High School, Dayton 

McKay High School, Salem (2020 news article)

Newberg High School, Newberg

Sherwood High School, Sherwood 

South Salem High School, Salem

West Salem High School, Salem 

West Albany High School, Albany

Rogue Valley Family YMCA, Medford (in development)
Tillamook County Family YMCA, Tillamook (in development)

YMCA of Columbia-Willamette, Portland area (in development)

2020 Youth and Government Session 


Ninety students who participate in Oregon’s YMCA Youth and Government program took their seats in the Oregon Capitol House and Senate Chambers on Friday, February 7 and Saturday, February 8, 2020. They represented delegations from area high schools, including McKay, Dayton, Newberg, Sherwood, West Albany, South Salem, and West Salem.

The program is an annual 3-day intensive educational experience unlike any other. It allows students to practice parliamentary procedure and actively participate in a mock legislative process. Working with volunteer advisors at their schools, delegates learn how to write bills, work in committee, and debate on the chamber floor. They serve as legislative officers and elect a youth governor. Twenty students, most of them freshmen, joined the event as pages.

A total of 29 measures were reviewed in committee and debated on the House and Senate floors before being signed or vetoed by the 2020 Youth Governor, Madeleine Getz, a senior from West Albany High School.


Delegates Diego Silva and Bailey Filley of West Albany High School were recognized for their excellence in measure writing with the William T. “Doc” McLean Master Measure Award for HM212 Period Products for all Middle and High Schools. 


A team of West Albany students were recognized by the student-elected officers for their measure that preserves and/or enhances Natural Resources and demonstrates Oregonians’ creative problem-solving abilities. Caroline Gao, Spencer Madsen, Malachi Murphy and McKenzie Morris received the Don Andrews Oregon Heritage Award.

Dezmond Remington, of West Albany High School, and Lindsay Boisvert, of Sherwood High School, were selected by their fellow delegates as the outstanding student legislators. They received the Wallace P. Carson Outstanding Senator and Representative Award, recognizing excellence and outstanding behavior, modeling YMCA values both on and off the chamber floor, demonstrating leadership qualities, speaks to issues with clarity and passion, and encourages and guides others to participate in the legislative process.

Sherwood High School was honored as the Outstanding Delegation, meeting all deadlines, following established rules, having all measures follow proper form and style, and attending all conference functions.

Alec Palm, of West Salem High School, was elected Secretary of State 2020/Governor-Elect 2021.​

2021-22 Governor-Elect 
Leo Boisvert

Sherwood High School

Notable alumni of the Youth & Government program include:

  • South Bend Indiana Mayor Peter Buttigieg, Former Presidential Candidate

  • Oregon State Representative Paul Evans

  • Former Ohio U.S. Senator John Glenn

  • State Supreme Court Justice David Prosser

  • U.S. Representative Tammy Baldwin

  • Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs

  • Lawrence Lessig, Harvard Law Professor

  • Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

  • Congressman Dennis Ross, FL

  • Christa McAuliffe was a YAG advisor in NH before she was chosen to be on the Challenger

  • George H. Gallup (founder of Gallup Pollng) conducted some of his first state polls with NJ YAG delegates

YMCA Changemakers Institute

The YMCA Changemakers Institute is a nationwide 3-month virtual summer program available to all high school students in grades 9-12, including incoming 9th grade students and graduating high school seniors (the graduating classes of 2020 to 2024). Click here for more information.

As participants in the Changemakers Institute, students will take part in:

  • Virtual Advocacy Training

  • Networking & Professional Development

  • Mentoring Seminars with YMCA Alumni

  • Engaging Local, State, National, and International Policymakers

  • Emphasizing Equity & Inclusion in Making Change

  • Strengthening Socio-Emotional Skills

  • Developing an Online Presence, Branding, and Voice

  • Collaborative Cohorts to address Local Issues

  • Leading the Y’s Youth Advocate Network & Youth Voter Commitment

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Oregon Capitol Foundation - a Y&G Sponsor

Gaming for Our Times

The American Democracy Game teaches civics in a fun, interactive way

Timing is everything. With election season upon us and many schools turning to distance learning, the American Democracy Game is a great way for young people to learn about representative democracy in a familiar format—online gaming.

Newly redesigned, The American Democracy Game teaches middle-grade children the concepts of representative democracy. Players learn how city councils and state legislatures work through interactive role-playing. Students become lawmakers who must consider the different viewpoints of various public policy issues and learn how to negotiate and compromise to find a solution all can support. Each decision follows the lawmaker through each level of the game and affects the direction the game takes. Kids love it.

For Nicholas and Zoe South, ages 12 and 10, the game couldn’t have come at a better time, given the limitations of the pandemic.

“The game taught me about how bills are passed,” says Nicholas, “which is interesting. And that you have to make compromises—a lot of compromises.”

Zoe enjoyed role-playing the most. “It’s fun because you get to play different characters and decide what to do. I like that it shows that kids can make a difference too.”



Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and the NCSL Foundation for State Legislatures generously supported the redesign of the game. It’s a way for legislators and those who work in and around state legislatures to “play it forward” and teach a little civics by sharing a great game with constituents, family and friends.

But don’t take our word for it. Check it out yourself!




Play it forward and teach a little civics by sharing a great game with constituents, family and friends!

Oregon YMCA Youth & Government Day April
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