By Mary O’KEEFE
The Crescenta Cañada YMCA tree lot is open for business. The lot is located in the east parking lot at the Y at 1930 Foothill Blvd.
The tree lot is more than a way for people to buy their Christmas tree; it supports two of the Y’s youth programs: the Y Camp and Youth in Government.
The funds raised are given to students in the form of scholarships to help them go to camp and/or be part of the YNG program, which hosts about 250 high school kids from all three of the local YMCAs including La Crescenta, Tujunga and Crescenta Cañada. From the funds raised about 100 kids are awarded scholarships.
“[Youth in Government] is a mock government program where high school kids get to come and learn how to write bills,” said Chelsea Lawrence, who oversees the YNG programs at all three locations.
The kids learn how to write a bill and a proposal in an area that they are most passionate about.
“They learn different sides of the government,” Lawrence said.
There is also a social aspect of the program, she added.
“It is fun for kids to meet other people in their delegation and across California,” she said.
The kids are divided into family groups and create their bills or proposals. Five of the ideas out of the 20 family groups are presented to a 15-member panel of volunteers. Those chosen move onto Sacramento where the kids go and debate their bills with other teens from other YNG programs.
Once a bill is approved it eventually goes on to the youth governor.
Through this process the teens learn more about how government works, how to present an idea and how to defend their choices.
Lawrence and her brother were both part of YNG when they were in high school.
“I loved the social side of YNG. I loved meeting new people and talking to my advisor, and that’s why I wanted to come back to the Y,” she said. “This is such a once-in-a-lifetime program.”
She added her brother, Vaughn, joined the YNG because she was in it but he soon found his skills were valuable in a different way.
“I liked the social but my brother became an officer. He did more on the leadership side,” Lawrence said.
In fact, after Vaughn graduated from Penn State in Pennsylvania and recently returned to the Crescenta Valley, he wanted to volunteer for the program. Vaughn works at Wedbush Securities but has made time to volunteer as an advisor for YNG.
So now both Lawrences have returned to the program they felt was so valuable.
In addition to learning how to write a bill, some of the kids are also part of Youth in Business and are leaders at the tree lot.
“Our Youth in Business run the tree lot,” Lawrence said. “They form a group and, [beginning] in September, we plan the marketing and sales side.”
The kids plan how many trees to buy, how to market the lot and design the social media campaign.
The trees sold at the lot are classified by the Dept. of Agriculture as “premium trees.” They include Noble, Grand and Nordmann firs.
The lot is open to the public through Dec. 22. The hours of operation area Monday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.