Youth and Government


In 1936, YMCAs across the country began the Youth and Government program as a teen leadership exercise founded in the spirit of teaching civic responsibility to new generations of Americans.  Since then, Youth and Government programs have been established in 45 states, involving more than 50,000 teens across the country every year.

Included in this number is the YMCA New Jersey Youth and Government (NJ YAG) program, which began in 1938 making it one of the most historic youth programs in the nation.  The two and a half day legislative simulation takes place in the historic New Jersey State House, where students debate bills that they have written, forge new friendships and gain a deeper sense of civic awareness. 

Our program is different than traditional classroom civics—rather than just speak or read about civic engagement and responsibility, students in YMCA NJ YAG actually get to put their skills to the test and learn through experience.  Students get to experience the legislative process first hand by participating as senators, assemblymen, justices, lobbyists, and members of the media in our legislative simulation.  Students are able to address issues by writing, debating, and passing legislation all while being in the actual seats of legislators in the State House.

Through our program, students are also guided through positive youth and character development activities. The conference is guided by the YMCA Four Core Values--Caring, Honesty, Respect, and Responsibility, which guides the students’ approach to leadership roles and conference planning. Each weekend includes a Community Service project designed to build a theme and foster the tone of service to others for every participant. 

YMCA New Jersey Youth and Government aims to show all its participants that they can make a difference by being civically engaged in their communities on a state or national level.  Many program alumni have gone on to study at prestigious universities, both in the U.S. and abroad, and have distinguished career paths that include public servant roles as elected officials.

Visit New Jersey Youth and Government website.

YMCA Model UN Opening Ceremony (January 5, 2021):


Corrien Elmore-Stratton
Executive Director | Teen Leadership
Greater Philadelphia YMCA
(m) 609.680.1371 (w)