Once a year, teens across Washington descend upon our state capitol for a hands-on experience running a model state legislature.
Through a partnership with the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties, local students from 8-12 grade participate in an eight-month program learning the ins and outs of our government and legislative processes, culminating in a four-day trip to the state capitol in Olympia.
Each teen can run for an elected position or take on a non-elected role suited best to their skills and interests, such as reporter, lobbyist, page, or legislator.
"They generate ideas, debate, and think deeper about making life better for all individuals in the United States and folks within their communities,” said Don Brevik, the Association Youth and Government Program Director for the Y. “Whether that's health care, education, race, and mental health issues, we give them autonomy, leadership, and a stronger voice to amplify."
Fundraising efforts, donations, and program fees make this program accessible to teens in our communities and scholarships are available for those in need of financial assistance. Through these efforts, the YMCA Youth and Government Program offers $2,000 in scholarships annually.
Former Youth and Government participant Kabastin Camble found his way to the program through Avid Class programs at Lincoln High School. For Camble, the Youth and Government program was great exposure to a passion for politics that already existed. Camble’s bill to make organic foods more accessible passed without hesitation, but he described the experience as eye-opening to others' beliefs and political positioning.
"I remember it was my first understanding of people's different beliefs and political standing. For example, I remember a friend was proposing a bill against abortion, and I remember telling him I was voting against his bill."
Camble went on to study at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. Recently, he worked on a congressional campaign for Stephanie Gallardo in Tukwila, Washington.
Camble led policy development on Medicare for all, housing improvements on a significant scale, public housing, improving education and redirecting funding to schools, in addition to an ambitious foreign policy plan.
“We got a third-place finish. It was a worthwhile experience. I got to write policy and research quite a bit,” said Camble while reflecting on the Youth and Government program at the Y.
Derek Kilmer, another former YMCA Youth and Government participant, and the 6th Congressional Representative of Washington State has been a longtime supporter of the program.
As a congressman, Kilmer, along with other representatives, has supported bipartisan legislation that empowers communities to tackle sources of division by supporting programs such as Youth and Government.
Our Youth and Government program is funded by grants and donations. Learn more about giving to the Y's Center for Community Impact and help us continue this important work!
“As the result of conversations with the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties and various community leaders, I authored bipartisan legislation to ensure the federal government becomes a better partner in helping community organizations like the YMCA to bridge divides and counter polarization in our community,” said Kilmer.
“Instead of accepting conflict and toxic polarization as the new normal, organizations like the Y are leading efforts to foster dialogue, defuse and address sources of conflict, and bridge differences. The bipartisan Building Civic Bridges Act would lend some support to these important civic bridgebuilding efforts.”
Overall, teens in this program walk away with confidence that they can impact their community. For Brevik, this program gives teens power in their voice and self-esteem that is empowered through practice, patience, and encouragement. No matter background, beliefs, or differences, there is always a spot for teens in the YMCA Youth and Government program.
Teens, parents, teachers, or schools interested in learning more about the YMCA Youth and Government program can find more here, or contact Don Brevik at firstname.lastname@example.org.