With the premise that leaders are developed by doing, the YMCA’s Youth and Government program’s motto is that “democracy must be learned by each generation.” The goal of the program is to create the next generation of thoughtful, committed and active citizens. With this in mind, teens are taught the principles of a democratic society and are given leadership roles in the models of judicial, legislative and executive branches of local, state and national government.

Teens from across the state meet throughout the year, in local Youth and Government groups, to discuss and debate issues, propose legislation, draft bills, participate in mock trials, and issue executive orders. State-wide conferences are held, and participants debate their legislation and form lifelong friendships.

If you are in grades 6-12 and are passionate about your community and want to get involved, hone your skills and gain a broader perspective on state, national, or international politics and policy, then Youth and Government is for you.


Participants are either elected into, or assume the roles of, governors, senators, representatives, lawyers, the press, or lobbyists. During this model, participants are trained in debate, parliamentary procedure, the legislative committee process, press relations, and lobbying techniques. Youth will then draft bills, discuss then in committees, and debate them on the floor of the legislature.

Delegates will learn by doing and have the opportunity to lead in an open and receptive learning environment.

Students debate pre-written bills of national and international importance in a Mock-Congressional Session. Students will decide at registration whether they wish to be legislator, lobbyist, or press member and participants will be grouped randomly into delegations organized as states. Based on role, students will receive state-relevant information such as bills, positions, and political outlook.

Legislators will meet, review state agenda and constituents, and “elect” two senators from their state. Majority/minority ratio will be accurately represented in House and Senate. Lobbyists will divide into two separate firms which both have predetermined agendas and goals and interview with press so legislators know which issues each firm supports or opposes. Press will have the opportunity to interview lobbyists and legislators to produce two news blogs and continuous polls.

Youth and Government is a program that gives youth a hands-on encounter with government. The program runs mid-September through early May, coinciding with the academic calendar.

There are many notable leadership programs across the country; however, the YMCA Youth and Government program is distinctly different. Our program is designed no not only to provide a challenging academic experience but also to guide students in personal development. The program is framed around the four core values of caring, respect, honesty, and responsibility. These values create a culture that is both academically engaging and ensures that students leave our program with the understanding of the interpersonal skills that are necessary to succeed in their future endeavors.

The goals of the program include:

  • Understanding of formal and informal gov’t structures
  • Actively participating in the legislative, judicial, executive, and political processes
  • Enriching the formal education process with realistic learning experiences
  • Building awareness of societal issues and problems and their solutions
  • Developing confidence in and dedication to the democratic process
  • Learning participative leadership skills
  • Appreciation for differing points of view
  • Gaining communication and leadership skills
  • Learning accountability and respect for others’ rights
  • Applying moral and ethical valuing processes to public policymaking

Students will learn all these skills and more through the Youth and Government’s weekly meetings and conferences. Facilitated by trained and qualified YMCA staff and volunteers, youth are given the opportunity to find their own voice, make new friends, and have fun!

For information on joining Arizona Youth and Government or to start your own delegation, please contact Elise Nilles at!

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Hello Delegates!

As school begins virtually for many of you, The Valley of The Sun YMCA’s Youth and Government program is excited to get started! To start off we would like to welcome you to the 73rd year of Youth and Government. Delegates, you have the unique opportunity to make history within our program, as this will be the first year that we meet weekly thru an online platform. Your local delegation meeting will become a weekly state-wide meeting where we will prepare for Model Leg together. The move online is in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. I know we will miss meeting regularly in person, yet I look forward to building more relationships with more of you in our new virtual meetings. Your physical and mental health are important to us, we hope that we can virtually make you feel a part of a community but keeping in mind your physical health by avoiding large gatherings.

Youth and Government seeks to create active and engaged citizens/youth. We believe that “democracy must be learned by each generation”, even though we are in unprecedented times our youth development team is actively preparing to make this mission happen. With that being said; we will begin virtual “delegation meetings” the week of September 7th, though this year will be different we are determined to make the best of it!

In addition to the state-wide weekly meeting, some delegations are meeting virtually on their own. All delegations and individuals are invited to attend our weekly Arizona State Meeting. Our meetings will use ZOOM and we are looking forward to seeing everyone online. Our first meeting will be Monday September 7th, 2020, from 5:00pm-6:00pm. To access the meeting link RSVP Here. We hope that you will join us the week of September 7th, inviting your friends and classmates. This is a great opportunity to get others involved! Our goal is to provide at least two virtual meeting options weekly for delegates. Please contact your local delegation leader to learn more; your delegation may be meeting independently or may have decided to attend the state-wide weekly meeting.

Each week we have activities designed to prepare you for December’s Conference, and we are working to line up engaging guest speakers. At this time we are optimistic that our December conference will be in person. I am working with the capitol and YMCA leadership as we watch the COVID-19 trends. We will have a final decision about our conference by October and we will update you as soon as we know more. Please reach out to me if you have questions or concerns at

MLC Fees: $25 deposit due at registration**
**remaining fees will be dependent on COVID-19 trends
Financial assistance available

Elise Nilles
State Director Arizona Youth and Government