How Texas Youth and Government has changed the lives of those who attend
By Holland Beard, Austin High School
YMCA Youth and Government provides an environment for students to become more aware of issues surrounding them and gives them a chance to expand on their existing skills with an exclusive experience. The club has been active since 1946 and has strived to educate its members that “Democracy must be learned by each generation.” The program has affected many members, with some coming out of it with improved skills, new friendships, and a greater view of issues surrounding Texas.
“My favorite part of the club is by far the people,” says Annika Singh, a sophomore and long-time attendee of Youth and Government. Singh reminisces about her past experiences with the organization. “The club has changed my life; it has opened up so many new experiences for me and has caused me to meet people I’ll never forget.” As she walks down the halls of Akins High School, she begins again, “I just have never experienced something that has connected me with so many people and allowed me to really shine.”
Youth and Government has over 25,000 involved students across the state, their backgrounds varying all over Texas. The program has forged one of her longest-lasting friendships. “I’ve met so many friends who I never would’ve met,” she says. Youth and Government currently hosts 40 state programs, ranging all over Texas. According to the program’s website, www.ymcatexasyg.org, there are also 3,300 volunteers and advisors.
Youth and Government has helped in ways other than connecting like-minded students. It has had a massive impact on important lifelong skills such as public speaking. Sophomore Zoe Moreno says how much she has changed throughout her years at Youth and Government. “My public speaking has improved so much.” Public speaking is an essential part of all sections at Youth and Government. Those who took part came out of it with more experience in the art of public speaking, even those who were embarrassed or scared to speak.
“The purpose of Youth and Government is to educate its members on the political issues surrounding Texas,” says senior Lola Shmeis. Shmeis is the club leader at Austin High School and an advanced member of Youth and Government. Youth and Government’s purpose is to educate students on the importance of political understanding and to give them hands-on experience in that. The experience provides all attendees with new information learned both through conferences and research. The students hear about political issues that impact them, and how they can fix them. “I love bragging about how the red-on-right rule was made by Youth and Government,” says Shmeis, recounting how the law allowing for a legal right turn at a red light started as a Youth and Government proposal. The real-life impacts of the club are not lost on her, and she expresses pride in the program. “The impact of Youth and Government is important statewide. What we’re doing is making a difference,” Shmeis says.