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Nationally, the YMCA Youth & Government Program began in New York State in 1936.  In the mid-1930’s, Clement A Duran, the Boy’s Work Secretary of the Albany YMCA, realized the government’s need for more leaders of high moral character and integrity.  At the same time he realized the need for high school youth to have a meaningful introduction the democratic process of government since they would soon become full-fledged adult citizens.  Duran struck upon the idea of a Model Legislature as a program vehicle for introducing the youth to the actual process and leadership of their state government.  He hoped that such a highly meaningful experience might inspire youth to think seriously about government as a career – or at least stimulate the beginning of their active and concerned participation in government as a citizen.

Youth & Government is a national government and politics program that promotes civic literacy as well as community service.

Ohio’s YMCA Youth & Government program began in 1952 and reflects the idea that “democracy must be learned by each generation” – Ben Franklin.  The Ohio YMCA Youth & Government program provides high school and middle school students with a unique opportunity to become acting state legislators, governors, lobbyists, lawyers, committee chairs. The students simulate all phases and positions of the actual state government. These students are challenged with many of the issues our real legislators must face in their elected offices.

The Ohio YMCA Youth & Government program was led by Ohio-West Virginia Area YMCA from 1952 until 1970 when the Ohio-West Virginia Area Council ceased to operate program in 1970's as the Ohio-West Virgina Area YMCA and the State YMCA of Michigan became the Great Lakes Region YMCA. In 1972 the Great Lakes Region YMCA appointed an Executive of what was called the West Virginia-Ohio YMCA, operated by the Great Lakes Region to run the YMCA Youth & Government and HI-Y programs throughout the states of West Virginia and Ohio.  The Great Lakes Region continued to support these programs into the 1980's.  In 1984 a new Ohio-West Virginia YMCA is chartered by the National YMCA.  At the end of 2012 the Ohio-West Virginia YMCA made the decision to no longer be a YMCA and chose to return their charter to Y-USA, at this time the Ohio Alliance of YMCA's began operating the Ohio YMCA Youth & Government programs.

The Ohio YMCA Youth & Government founder,  the late C. William O’Neill, the only person in Ohio history to be elected to the highest office in all three branches of Ohio government, having served as speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, governor and chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court worked with YMCA staff to create the Ohio YMCA Youth & Government program.

Legislation first proposed in Youth & Government now is seen in more than three hundred actual laws in our states including those that:

  • Require signal lights at railroad crossings
  • Reclaim strip mined land
  • Hold 18 year olds responsible for contracts they sign
  • Create the white line on the side of the road
  • Establish “right turn on red”
  • Established Special Education
  • Provide for driver’s education
  • Promote campaign finance reform
  • Provide for medical malpractice reform.
  • Ratification of the 26th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States granting the vote to 18 year olds.

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