Growing the next generation of civically engaged Californians

Since 1948, the YMCA’s Youth & Government (Y&G) program has provided an unmatched experiential learning opportunity for high school students. By modeling California’s legislature and courts, participants have the opportunity to build skills such as critical thinking, persuasive speech and writing, project management, and collaboration. Our program is rooted in the YMCA’s core values of Caring, Honesty, Respect, and Responsibility, and believes in the importance of servant leadership and media literacy to a healthy democracy. 

Our goal is to grow the next generation of civically engaged Californians. Civically engaged Californians recognize the importance of: 

  • Civic Knowledge: They understand the structure and function of government.
  • Civic Awareness: They can identify the major issues facing their communities.
  • Civic Action: They are equipped with the tools they’ll need to make change in their community.

The program is offered through the collaborative effort of 6 Northern California YMCA Associations.  Participants meet weekly with their local delegations and roughly once per month as a collective group from September through March.  Due to Covid-19 all programming for the 2020-2021 year will be virtual.  

Sign up for our mailing list for information about 2020-21 program registration: 


The program year runs from September through March. We currently have delegations based in Sacramento, El Dorado Hills, and western Nevada County. Delegation meetings are led by the student officer team. During meetings, delegates have the chance to get to know one another, learn about the basic structures of government, hear from guest speakers, and hear about program leadership opportunities. They’ll also practice their public speaking skills during frequent debates and discussions about today’s top issues.


In addition to weekly meetings, Delegates will attend conference each month from November through March where they will interact with other Delegates from around Northern California. At our virtual conferences, Delegates will hear from keynote speakers, run for elected officer positions, receive training on their program areas, and more. Here is this year’s conference schedule:

  • November 8, 2020: PolicyFest 2020 - Delegates learn about top policy challenges and possible solutions from leaders in policy, legislation and law. 
  • December 13, 2020: Organizing Summit - Delegates will form task groups, discuss preliminary proposal ideas, and start to identify possible coalition partners. 
  • January 10, 2021: Voting & Campaigns Intensive - An in-depth look at the electoral process from election administration to campaign management. 
  • February 28, 2021: Policy Committees and Elections - Candidates will face the voters in debates and make their case for support prior to the election of program officers. Policy committees will meet for the first time to hear legislative proposals. 
  • March 6-7, 2021: 2021 Model Legislature & Court - The full legislative house meets, court hearings are held, and advocates have their last chance to advocate for their bills. Keynote speakers and a Saturday Night Virtual Social Hour will be included.

When we return to in-person programming in the 2021-22 program year, we anticipate returning to an in-person conference schedule that takes advantage of three-day weekends to lessen the impact of participation on school attendance. (Participation in Youth & Government programming, however, constitutes an excused absence under the California Education Code.)


During our virtual programming year, Delegates will focus on one of several available program areas designed to equip them with the tools they need to become and remain civically engaged throughout life and to advocate for themselves and their communities. Delegates will learn about trending policy topics in subject areas like Education, the Environment, Public Safety, and more. They'll learn how legislation is made as they act as Legislators, Advocates, or Analysts. A court program will teach participants about the impact of lawsuits and legal decisions on public policy. 

Fees and financial aid

Our program fee for the 2020-21 year is $250. Financial assistance is available.

We are committed to equal program access for all and are dedicated to ensuring the benefits of Y&G are available to every student in our community without regard to financial need. No delegate should ever drop out or refrain from joining because of financial concerns. If you want to do this program, we want you to do this program!

Questions? Contact:


To join our volunteer adult advising team, visit