The YMCA Youth and Government Program is designed to encourage civic engagement by teaching the core principles of democracy. Youth and Government clubs are organized throughout the state in collaboration with local schools or YMCAs and coordinated at the statewide level by the State YMCA of Pennsylvania. Educators form clubs as a means to more deeply explore classroom lessons in a hands-on environment.
The purpose of the program is to bring the workings of state government alive to students. It creates a hands-on opportunity for students to discuss current state issues with state administrators, elected officials, and nearly 700 students throughout the state. Club members are extensively trained over a school-year program cycle to fulfill the following roles at the Model Legislature Conference:
- Officers and Administration are given responsibility for the planning, implementation, and leadership of the conference and must learn parliamentary procedure and the duties of the Governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker of the House, Clerk, Sgt. at Arms, and Secretary.
- Legislators must stay up to date on current affairs, learn parliamentary procedure, and bill-writing skills in order to author bills, vote on bills, speak their minds on current events, run for office, and vote for officers.
- Supreme Court Justices learn case law and Judicial Processes in order hear oral arguments from teams of Attorneys and rule on the merits.
- Lobbyists are trained in the process of influencing legislation for the purpose of representing their assigned constituents.
- Print Media keep a careful eye on the proceedings by publishing student newspapers and web articles about the Y&G process.