In 1936, YMCAs across the country began the Youth and Government program as a teen leadership exercise founded in the spirit of teaching 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 (NJ YAG) program, which began in 1938 making it one of the most historic youth programs in the nation. The two and a half day legislative simulation takes place in the historic New Jersey State House, where students debate bills that they have written, forge new friendships, and gain a deeper sense of civic awareness.
Our program is different than traditional classroom civics—rather than just speak or read about civic engagement and responsibility, students in YAG actually get to put their skills to the test and learn through experience. Students get to see the legislative process done first hand by participating as senators, assemblymen, justices, lobbyists, and members of the media in our legislative simulation. Students are able to address issues by writing, debating, and passing legislation all while being in the actual seats of legislators in the State House.
Through our program, students are better able to understand and get involved in political and public affairs; communicate their ideas and opinions; develop their research, writing and presentation skills; and understand the value of student leadership.
New Jersey Youth & 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. Many alumni that have participated in the program have gone on to study at prestigious universities, both in the U.S. and abroad, and follow distinguished career paths.