One of the first iterations of the YMCA Civic Engagement initiative was the New Jersey Youth and Government (NJ YAG) program, begun in 1938. The two and a half day legislative simulation takes place annually in the historic New Jersey State House, affording more than 500 delegates the opportunity to debate relevant matters to state government, engage in servant outreaches and, most importantly, forge meaningful relationships,
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. Conference caters to a wide variety of delegates, from those interested in policy-making to those who yearn to express themselves with the written word; in fact, students have the ability to participate as senators, assemblymen, justices, lobbyists, members of an executive response committee, and media members.
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.
Delegates are able to channel their local representatives as well as interact with many of the state’s future leaders. Conference is organized in a fashion centered on interaction between delegates and takes pride in the ideas of its delegates, many of which are lauded for their applicability to the current New Jersey political situation. Indeed, conference in many ways manifests the ways that the policy-making agenda is addressed free of government corruption.