I joined Youth in Government this year, and I only had just heard about it in September, but obviously Youth In Government didn’t just start yesterday. So where did it come from?
The first Youth in Government meetings was held in Albany, New York all the way back in 1936.
The State YMCA Secretary at the time, ‘Pete’ Duran, is given credit for creating Youth in Government. He saw this program’s opportunity to interest the youth in different processes in the government, particularly lawmaking. He also decided on the program’s motto“Democracy must be learned by each generation.” This was taken from a quote by Dr. Earle T. Hawkins, who was also the founder of the Maryland Youth in Government program.
The first Wisconsin YMCA Model Government was held 16 years later in 1952. It was hosted in the capitol building at Madison, where we will be holding this year’s session 66 years later. There were about 200 youths involved. The sail or fail of this trial would determine if other Model Governments would be held. Fortunately, it sailed, and it has sailed for every year since. Capitol staff, and even legislators, compliment Youth In Government participants.
Model Government was held every other year, until 1962, a decade later. Then, it became an annual conference. 1989 marked the year when the first Wisconsin Youth Supreme Court was held at Model Government in the Supreme Court chambers. In 2000, the importance of Youth in Government was truly recognized when the American Bar Association created a policy, which requested lawyers to become involved in Youth in Government. This highlighted the importance of including students in the United States’ legal process.
In 2012, the YMCA Youth in Government program operated in 37 states and the District of Columbia, with over 47,000 high school members involved around the country. Youth in Government has expanded throughout the years, and even as each generation passes, ensures that democracy will be learned.