Since 1949, Missouri YMCA Youth and Government has provided students with the opportunity to develop leadership skills and experience democracy. Based on the motto “Democracy Must Be Learned By Each Generation”, Youth and Government is a statewide educational program that involves over 1,100 Missouri youth each year in various programs.
In 1949 under the leadership of Randall Foster, President of the Board of the St. Louis YMCA, Missouri became the second state in the Midwest to launch the Youth and Government program. Missouri was the twenty-first state across the United States to conduct this YMCA citizenship-training program for its youth clubs.
A statewide committee of 30 people worked a full year to get the program underway. Because of the contributions of these business leaders, educators and YMCA representatives, the first Missouri Youth and Government General Assembly met in Jefferson City on December 16 and 17, 1949. One hundred thirty-five high school youth, selected from 50 clubs and representing more than 3,000 members, participated. Since the program started, over 10,000 Missouri youth have been involved.
Thirty-three bills in that first general assembly were prepared by the Youth and Government representatives, of which seven finally passed both the House and Senate and were signed by the Youth Governor, Gerald Gorman of North Kansas City.
Founded in New York in 1936, the Youth and Government program was labeled “A Seedbed for Leadership” by The Reader’s Digest. Thomas C. Desmond, a member of the New York State Senate in 1948, called it “One of the most hopeful movements toward intelligent democracy in the country.” The program is currently held in YMCAs in over 40 states.
Overview of Program
Youth and Government (YAG) is a student-driven simulation of state government, which involves 1,100 Missouri youth in grades 8-12. Beginning in the fall of each year, students come together in their local delegations to choose their roles, register and prepare for the State Conference. At the State Conference, students create their version of state government under the guidelines of the Missouri Constitution. All participants in Missouri come together for this three-day event at the State Capitol. Legislators meet in committees and in the House and Senate chambers to debate legislation. Attorneys try their cases before student judges and engage in a trial competition. The entire event is covered by a student media. Participants also engage in campaigns and elections for officers who will serve during the following year.
The Missouri YMCA Youth and Government program is operated by the Missouri State Alliance of YMCAs, with the YAG State Office being located in Jefferson City. Membership in the YMCA, the organization that sponsors the Youth and Government program, is not required in order to participate in Youth and Government.