Middle and high school students with diverse backgrounds recently gathered, eager to participate in the YMCA Texas Youth and Government Program conference. Bright faces of America’s future were dressed in business attire, ready to take on real-world issues as a rehearsal for their dreams of the future. More than 1,200 attendees from 72 delegations gathered at the District 5 Dallas conference, held at Centennial High School in Garland.
The morning opened to a full auditorium of students who cheered during a welcome speech by keynote speaker United States Congressman Pete Sessions, representing the 32nd District of Texas.
Sessions spoke about the importance of kids staying off drugs and how success comes with staying “true north with God, family and country.”
Sessions also reminded those in attendance that how you talk to people and treat people makes a difference. He added, “Experience life in a way that brings honor, character and purpose.”
The Texas Youth and Government Program conference is a means for local clubs to simulate the legislative and judicial sections of government in the United States.
“All middle and high school students from private, public and home school are welcome, as long as they are affiliated with their local YMCA Youth and Government club,” said Jennifer Struble, District Director of Youth & Government and Association Teen Program Director at YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas.
Students achieved hands-on learning by putting what they have learned in their clubs into practice while maintaining the four core values of the YMCA: respect, responsibility, honesty and caring.
“This conference is also a qualifying and preparatory conference for the State Youth and Government conferences held in Austin in January and February, as well as the Model United Nations Assembly in April,” Struble added.
YMCA Texas Youth and Government Program organizers believe it is paramount that young people learn how to be responsible citizens and future leaders.
“Without their knowledge of basic government processes and the inspiration to be engaged in their communities and with their government leaders, democracy is in danger,” Struble said. “Our program motto coined by our founder, Clement P. Duran, is ‘Democracy must be learned by each generation in order to survive.’"
“This program is not only for the government nerds and the academically driven,” Struble concludes. “This program brings out the very best in every teen.”