“I call for the previous question…”

“I object, your Honor…”

These statements usually are heard in the state legislative and judicial chambers of most state capitols in the United States. But in Youth and Government, it is the voices of the youth of America that is heard. Started by the New York State YMCA in 1936, this unique and highly educational experience for high school students has spread to involve 37 states from Hawaii to Maine. About 60,000 teenagers and 2,500 adults participate across the nation annually in Youth and Government. Over 100 of them participate annually here in Illinois, and we are celebrating our 73rd year.


Youth and Government MAKES A DIFFERENCE!

  • EMPOWERS Students take on the roles of government
  • INSPIRES Provides the opportunity for students from all backgrounds, all parts of the state to come together for a common cause
  • BROADENS Provides students the opportunity to hear, respect and discuss different viewpoints and experiences from their own
  • ENGAGES Students become more aware of and engage in social issues and the possible solutions
  • ENCOURAGES Encourages students’ interest and participation in both political and community activities
  • DEVELOPS Self confidence, self-expression and awareness, critical thinking and social skills

Legislative Phase

Each year the students who decide to work as Legislators become involved in the process of identifying areas of critical need that can be alleviated or remedied on the state level. These students form small groups (3-4 students) with an advisor and develop a bill following extensive research from September through November. These bills are tested and perfected at two pre-legislative sessions. In March, the program culminates with the students and advisors arriving in Springfield for a 3-day assembly. In Illinois, the students are privileged to sit in the actual Senate and House Chambers in the Capitol to debate their legislation.

Judicial Phase

The Judicial Branch of Youth and Government is designed to give high school students a broader understanding of our judicial system by affording them the opportunity to serve as youth justices, lawyers, and clerk-bailiffs in actual appellate cases. An optional Mock Trial may be held at the discretion of the local advisor.  The students produce a bench memo appealing a decision of a case, and present an oral argument at the General Assembly. The judicial program utilizes the Illinois State Supreme Court, and other courtrooms in Springfield for the students to argue the cases.

Other Program Phases

In addition to the Judicial and Legislative branches, students may participate as part of the Press Corps, Lobbyists, Legislative Assistants, elected officials — Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Chief Justice, Speaker of the House, President of the Senate, etc.

How to Become Involved

The program can be implemented in a few ways. An interested student or teacher or YMCA can contact the Youth and Government Office for specific information. Delegations can be part of a government club at a high school, or a teen or an achievers club at a Y.


For further information regarding Illinois YMCA Youth & Government, please contact Illinois YMCA Youth and Government Headquarters.