Youth & Government Prepares Teens for YMCA Youth Advocacy Program in Washington D.C.

Last updated: June 10, 2024, at 10:53 a.m. PT

Originally published: May 21, 2024, at 12:09 p.m. PT

Young women smiling for a photo with AOC

Written by Anika and Shruthi, Youth & Government Participants

Who knew Youth & Government (YAG) could open so many doors? Because of YAG, Anika and I were prompted to apply for the Youth Advocacy Program for the National Advocacy Days in Washington D.C. led by Y-USA. We didn't know much about the program, but we decided to apply for the fun of it and sure enough, we both got in. The Youth Advocacy Program (YAP) gave us many life-changing experiences. This was not just a trip to D.C.; rather, it was an accumulation of all of the hard work we had put in to get to know our communities and the things we wanted to advocate for.

two teen girls smiling in front o the white house

In Washington D.C., we took part in many different activities. A lot of which, we had never experienced before. For example, being a part of the National Advocacy Days meant that we were meeting with adults nationwide affiliated with the YMCA. We had to communicate with Washington State YMCA Alliance members, and we learned how to make connections with different adults in high positions. While it was scary, we eventually got used to it. We talked to the President of Y-USA, CEOs of different branches, Vice Presidents, and more. These connections prepared us for many future opportunities and helped us create a link to people we could talk to in the future.

Another aspect of the Youth Advocacy Program, was, of course, the advocating. Before our four-day trip, Anika and I had accumulated our advocacy plans based on the Y's top four priorities and what our communities need. In our case, we (along with our Washington State YMCA Alliance members) decided to advocate for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and funding the CDC's Disease Prevention Programs. As a bipartisan organization, Y-USA wanted to make sure they were hitting the top needs of the people that they support; these are two incredibly important needs, especially in Washington State! Additionally, we advocated to our representatives and senators to push for these needs. More specifically, we met with Representative Pramila Jayapal, Representative Derek Kilmer, Representative Marilyn Strickland, and Senator Patty Murray's staff. They were all incredibly kind and listened to everything we had to say intently!

Another fun thing we got to do was go around the House and Senate Office Buildings. In one of the House Buildings, we even met Alexandria Ocosia-Cortez (AOC)! Overall, this experience for Anika and me has been one for the books. We learned so much from the peers who were with us, the adults we talked to, our alliance members, and especially the representatives and senators who allowed us to display our passions to them. We highly recommend anyone who is thinking about applying, to do it. This experience is something so valuable that NO ONE should miss out on it. It teaches so many different lessons and valuable skills to use in the future. The YMCA opens doors for everyone and this experience is the prime example of that. We are so thankful that we were given this opportunity and we are so excited to see how this program progresses in the future, as well as what our Washingtonians will do in it!

Category: Youth & Government