By Joyce LEE, intern
The slogan for the California Youth and Government program since the mid-20th century, “Democracy Must Be Learned by Each Generation,” is still in effect half a century later as a new school year begins a new Youth and Government year. The La Crescenta community representative delegations, the Crescenta Cañada YMCA (CCY) and Verdugo Hills YMCA (VHY), gathered at the CCY on Sept. 3 for their introduction meeting.
“At the Y, we believe that every young adult deserves the opportunity to discover who they are and what they can achieve. Youth and Government is one of our greatest opportunities to do this,” leader of Youth Development at CCY and overseer of both the CCY and VHY delegations, Natalie Abou-Chakra, said. “Over the past six decades, the Y has relied on Youth and Government to prepare students to be leaders and agents of social change.”
Not only does Y&G aim to educate young adults on politics and government, it centers its focus on helping them become happier individuals. The program strives to increase the occurrence of healthy lifestyle choices, decrease the frequency of high-risk behaviors (e.g. drug and alcohol use, self-harm, bullying), increase the potential of teens to excel in school, and increase the involvement of teens through peer leadership and community service to those in need.
Y&G achieves these goals through educational weekly meetings held by their local delegations and three grand trips during the year: Training and Elections 1, Training and Elections 2, and Sacramento. At each of these meetings and events, there is an adult mentor present to ensure safety and guidance. The lead advisor for CCY is Shelby Denton, a CVHS and Y&G alumna who was the former president of CCY. The lead advisor for VHY is Steve Francisco, also a CVHS and Y&G alumni.
At T&E 1, the participants are exposed to the various areas of the United States government. At T&E 2, they join a workshop that they are interested in. For example, there is National Issues Commission, Senate, and Lobby. The final and most important trip, the Capitol, is where members get the opportunity to execute what they learned from the weekly meetings and both of the Training and Elections trips. This special event is supported, counseled, and partly funded by the California YMCA Youth & Government Advisory Board, and a group of selected senators, assembly members, constitutional officers, and state government leaders.
“The Sacramento trip allows students to experience life at the Capitol. But more importantly, it engenders the future politicians and leaders of the United States,” senior and vice president of VHY Heli Lee said.
The objective of the Sacramento trip is for students to constitute laws and attempt to turn their creative ideas into actual bills that go to the United States Congress. This goal is achieved through the cooperation of the various groups, such as the press, writers, speakers, debaters and others. The reality of the world of politics is further impressed upon the students as a few selected ones are elected to hold office.
Although the Sacramento trip is considered to be the main event of the year, that would be incorrect to say. Students are engaged and educated at each gathering, whether a small weekly meeting, fundraising event or overnight trip. Through each experience, they have the opportunity to grow as individuals and community contributors.
“Youth and Government has a positive impact on the community and gives kids the chance to realize their full potential,” Abou-Chakra said.
The deadline to sign up for Youth and Government is Sept. 20. Weekly meetings are held at 6:30 p.m. at the CCY and VHY, depending on which delegation that is chosen. Forms are available online at http://tinyurl.com/YnGforms.