I have what you might call the perfectly cliche coming-of-age experience in Youth and Government.
I joined, as many do, as a freshman with very little interest in politics or civic engagement, entering almost completely blind to what the program actually entailed. Honestly, my main motivation to attend meetings was the opportunity to hang out with the cooler upperclassmen in my delegation.
My 14 year-old self was very different from who I am now. I was easily embarrassed by my own presence, I had no confidence in my personal opinions, and I had little initiative to complete any task that wasn’t mandated by a parent or teacher. Immediately after my first few meetings however, I showed more enthusiasm in my delegation than I had in any other activity. This manifested when I convinced myself to run for the only officer position in my delegation open to freshmen: Forum Representative. I am so thankful now that I won that election. The role was very simple: facilitate bonding between freshmen and serve as a bridge of communication between the officers and forum, but the sense of purpose that came with an officer position instilled in me confidence and a sense of pride in my own hard work I hadn’t truly experienced before. Now, as a senior, I proudly serve as president of the South Pasadena San Marino Delegation.
Four years in this program has matured me a lot. Now when I enter a room, I make sure my presence is acknowledged and respected; I assert my opinions with gusto and encourage thoughtful argument; I regularly pursue projects I believe will benefit those around me. A great change in personality is expected in anyone’s highschool experience, but I truly believe the role Y&G has played in my development has been cataclysmic — as it is for so many other delegates. It is for this reason I ask you to support Cal YMCA Youth & Government’s meaningful and life-changing work.
I became concerned with the cost of the program my sophomore year, as I saw talented and passionate young delegates leave the program because of the financial burden. When I voiced these concerns to my mom, she immediately shut them down. According to her, seeing the substantial increase in confidence and empathy both my older sister and I gained through this program, was well worth the cost. I understood though, that many families are not so lucky to afford such an experience. This prompted me to run for Treasurer of my delegation as a junior — I wanted to do everything in my ability to inform members of my delegation of ways they could seek out financial aid. I continue that work on today as a fundraiser for the Future Leaders Campaign.
As I ask for your support, I want to express how Y&G affects students in so many different ways. Some delegates are like me and show impact through increased participation, running for positions or debating on a statewide level. Some delegates never speak in front of a large crowd, but experience the love of Y&G through lasting friendships and a more open attitude toward listening and learning from others. Of particular note, is the potential impact this program has on young women and minorities. Through caucuses like Female Leaders in Power, Queer Delegates Caucus, and Delegates of Color, students belonging to historically marginalized groups have a safe space at conferences where they can discuss shared experiences and others can listen. I have seen through my years in Y&G how the population of confident young people speaking up and running for positions has become increasingly diverse. I witnessed a similar change in my own delegation after we implemented programs to empower female delegates; our young women began to speak up more in meetings, to an equal level of the men. Because of delegate-initiated change, my delegation continues to exists as a space of equality, acceptance, and empowerment. At my school, the girls who do Y&G are often the most well-spoken and passionate students, and I am extremely proud to call them my role-models.
Those committed to Y&G, are committed to creating change on every level. Youth and Government provides young people with an important starting platform to begin using their voice in productive and inspiring ways. Any gift will make a difference, please join me and give today.