Today, over 40 states and the District of Columbia have Youth and Government programs (find yours at http://www.ymcayg.org); most of these programs consist of a model legislature composed of high school students who write legislation, and gather for a week to debate their proposed laws in their actual state capitol building. Nationwide studies show that Youth and Government alumni are not necessarily more likely to become politicians as they reach adulthood, but they are considerably more likely to become active in local political issues as concerned citizens.
Every year in July, representatives from many of the 40 State Youth in Government programs participate in the YMCA Conference on National Affairs (CONA). This conference is held in Black Mountain, NC at the YMCA Blue Ridge Conference Center. Each year, participants have the opportunity to meet other delegates from different states, and create and debate legislation of national and international relevance. Additionally, those Youth Legislature delegates elected Governor from their respective states hold a Youth Governors' Summit in Washington, D.C.
Many states also have judicial programs, in which youth "attorneys" from across the state write briefs and participate in mock appeal hearing in the state capitol and state Supreme Court buildings. The cases are decided by youth judges.
Tennessee's Youth in Government program is the second largest in the nation, with approximately 4000 participating in Youth Legislature conferences and Model United Nations conferneces conducted by the YMCA Center for Civic Engagement in Nashville. Youth Legislature is an annual conference designed to offer high school and middle school students a hands-on experience with state government. Each year, students from across the state converge on the State Capitol, taking the places of real government officials. Program participants can serve as senators or representatives, as State Supreme Court Justices and lawyers, as department commissioners and lobbyists, or even as press corps members. In 2009, Youth Legislature will officially be called Tennessee Youth in Government to more accurately portray the conferences. Each fall, the YMCA Center for Civic Engagement in Nashville also sponsors a Model United Nations conference. Most students form delegations and represent member countries' interests in the General Assembly by drafting and debating resolutions. Other students have the opportunity to represent their countries on the Security Council, and to participate in a model International Court of Justice.
Arizona's Youth and Government program is annually held in Phoenix. Students attending come from across the state and tend to be rather Conservative and Religious. In years past, the Arizona YAG conferences have actually began with a prayer. In other years, the students had passed a bill to require Religion in school, and the Ten Commandments be posted over all plaques above every Judge in the state. However unconstitutional these may have been, it passed with an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate. However it was vetoed by the Youth Governor due to its unconstitutionality, it passed AGAIN through the House to over-ride the veto.
Kentucky's Youth-In-Government program is the largest, with approximately 7000 participants attending annual conferences: an East and West Senior Kentucky Youth Assembly (KYA) and an East and West Senior Kentucky United Nations Assembly (KUNA) for high-schoolers; the East, West, and Central Junior KYAs and two Junior KUNAs for middle-schoolers; and several "non-debatable" conferences: Junior and Senior Leadership Training Conference (LTC) and the Junior and Senior "Go-For-It!" conference.
Illinois is the newest of the nine YMCAs in the country with statewide charters (PA, NY, OH, WV, KY, GA, VA, CA). The remaining Y&G programs are organized by local YMCA associations on behalf the state in which they reside. In states such as Connecticut, the individual YMCA programs (through which high school students participate) sponsor a "session" each year at the state capitol. It is during this event that students hold elections for party leaders, debate bills, represent the media, and actively learn about the legislative and political process.
The California YMCA has expanded its Youth & Government program to include around 2200 youth from over 85 different delegations. The program has grown so much as to have its own Model Court, Press, Media, Lobbyist, Page, National Issues Commission, Board of Education, Board of Equalization, and Special Investigative Panel programs. Recently, a Model United Nations has been started to serve junior high students and prepare them for Y&G.
The Minnesota Youth In Government program (notice the variation from the alternative "Youth AND Government") consists of both a Model Assembly (representing the State Legislative system) and a Model United Nations. The Model Assembly is run each January at the Minnesota State Capitol building in Saint Paul. At this program, nearly 1500 students from around the state (including such outlying areas as Brainerd and Albert Lea) gather to debate issues conceived and written upon by themselves. In addition to the main Legislative program, the Minnesota YMCA YIG program also has three full Judicial systems - a Trial Court, an Appeals Court, and a mock Supreme Court - and various other smaller groups such as Lobbyist teams, staff for both the Youth Governor and Lieutenant Governor, and four media teams (radio, television, and morning and evening newspapers.) The Model United Nations program takes place in Mid-March and brings together approximately 500 youth to represent countries from around the world and debate issues of international importance. Training sessions for delegates as well as elected and appointed officials are held throughout the year, and the level of commitment to the program is astounding.