Youth and Government (YAG) student participants from around the state will come together from April 21 to April 23, 2018 to collectively model the New Jersey government at the New Jersey State House, where students will acquire information about different processes in the state government while gaining leadership skills.
Five hundred students from 26 different schools and branches of the YMCA participate in the New Jersey Youth and Government conference every year. The two-and-a-half day legislative conference takes place in the historic New Jersey State House where students debate bills that they have written, make friends, and gain a deeper sense of civic awareness.
Each year, students build and run their own legislative chambers, courts, lobby firms, response committees, and press initiatives. At YAG, delegates gain and cultivate the tools, perspectives, and community to become a leader. Instead of just speaking or reading about civic engagement and responsibility, students get to learn through experience and put their skills to the test.
There are many roles one can take on in YAG, making the club useful for all types of people. The conference includes many activities to engage a wide variety of delegates from those who are interested in policy-making to those who want to write. Students have the ability to participate as senators, assemblymen, justices, lobbyists, members of an executive response committee, and media members. The majority of the delegates join the legislative chamber, which involves the creation of a legislation, or a bill.
Modeled after the New Jersey legislative system, four fully independent legislatures each consist of an Assembly and a Senate where bills are debated and passed through by their respective delegates and potentially signed by the Youth Governor.
Through YAG, students are better able to understand and get involved in political and public affairs. They can communicate their ideas and opinions, develop their research, gain writing and presentation skills, and understand the value of student leadership while making new friendships.
Junior Aneri Patel said, “I am part of the legislative chamber, and my role lies in the Kean-Livingston Assembly, which is one of the four chambers. It is always exciting to see other people’s perspective on my bill when debating, but it is always frightening to hear other people’s opinions. I hope that my bill will get passed at conference this year!”
Delegates who like to debate and talk about controversial issues are likely to join the Courts. Students who take part in the Courts program will experience the appeal process of the Appellate Division of the New Jersey judiciary.
They can also participate in Constitutionality Debates like the ones in the Supreme Court. Delegates engage in intense debates, deciding whether issues are constitutional or not.
If one is not interested in the government process, there are other options, such as the press. Everything that is run and associated with YAG is publicized by the Press Corps, who spread awareness and inform the delegates of important news.
YAG began in 1936 when YMCAs across the country began the Youth and Government program as a teen leadership exercise to teach civil responsibility to new generations of Americans.
Since then, Youth and Government programs have been established in 45 states, involving more than 50,000 teens across the country every year. Included in this number is the New Jersey Youth and Government program, which began in 1938, making it one of the most historic youth programs in the nation.
New Jersey Youth and Government aims to show all its participants that they can make a difference and play a significant role in politics, whether it be on the state or national level.
Freshmen Raiva Shroff said,”YAG enabled me find my passion. I joined YAG because all my friends had joined it, and from the first day I loved it. It taught me how to publicly speak better and I gained confidence. The exposure to politics and government makes me want to go in that field.”
What would inspire you to join YAG?