Dear Parents,

As a graduate of the YMCA New Jersey Youth and Government Program, I am so happy that you and your child are joining our community. I personally believe in the values and skills that the YMCA Civic Engagement Programs teach and am amazed each year at what our delegates accomplish. I write this letter hoping to address some common concerns and explain our goals.

The strength of our programming is a reflection of the YMCA 4-core values: Honesty, Caring, Respect, and Responsibility. Though the NJ Youth and Government  program teaches debate and discusses politics, our primary goal is to empower students to have thoughtful, respectful, and exciting discussions about current issues. Whether they enjoy debate, prefer bill writing, or just like the issues themselves, we want delegates to have the tools, perspectives, and community to explore how they understand issues and to be comfortable expressing ideas in a new environment.

The Junior Legislator Program in particular aims to strike balances between debate procedure, skills, and community. We use debate procedure to teach respect for opinions and speakers, and we use bills for critical thinking and problem solving. Neither of those are unique without the community created through the excellent leadership, enthusiasm, and kindness brought by High School student-leaders such as this year’s Sahand Barazesh, who teaches and runs the Junior Legislature. 

Ice breakers, games, character-development awards (letters of recognition from peers), and breakout sessions into other areas of conference (Press, Lobby Corps, Emergency Response, and Courts) are how we use the framework of bill writing and debate to foster community and support interests and skills outside of legislative procedure.

If your son or daughter is struggling to think of a topic for their bill, is nervous about speaking, meeting new people, or is already an activist, they are welcome just as they are! We hope that they leave our conference season feeling confident in themselves, their new skills, and are excited about who they want to become.

Thank you for your time, for working with us, and for your trust. We look forward to an excellent 2018 Junior Legislators Program!



Carrie Bilenker

Program Director, Jr. Legislators Program

(908) 358-7449