The Valley of the Sun YMCA provides high school students the opportunity to serve in model governments, helping them gain principals of a democratic society.

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.

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.

Be a part of a student-led, student-run Arizona Youth and Government. Members have the opportunity to engage with teens across Arizona during three main conferences each year.


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 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 ensure 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 policy making

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!

Get Involved Today

If you would like to become a part of Arizona Youth and Government, please contact Elise Nilles at or find a club near you!

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