YMCA Youth and Government organization teaches teens how to legislate
DECATUR—Arriving in Decatur 6 years ago, the YMCA Youth & Government Organization continues to show Macon County high school students exactly what it takes to be a politician.
Originally formed in 1949, the Illinois YMCA Youth and & Government has nearly 2,000 participants, but not until recently, with the efforts of Keith Worland, did Decatur have a chapter. “Anyone can come; it’s really great for a wide range of kids. The kids who enjoy politics, obviously it’s great for them. But it’s also great for kids who are looking to improve their public speaking skills, who are interested in learning about the political process, or kids who are just looking for that extra item on their college application.”
Worland says it offers the members a unique perspective on how government is run and how things get done, “It really offers kids a hands-on experience. We teach students about the governmental process in school and they know about it but it’s a totally different animal once you’re in there trying to get your legislation passed.”
In addition to their weekly meetings in the YMCA, Worland says in October and November the 11 members of the Decatur chapter will travel to Williamsville and pitch their bill ideas during a regional meeting that involves 10 other chapters. During this time, Worland says, the members will get their first opportunity to debate with other chapters, to pitch their legislation ideas and really learn how to work around a room. Following the trips to Williamsville; the group will then join up with all the other chapters from around the state at the state capitol in Springfield.
“Springfield is the big trip for the kids. For some of them it will be the first time they have ever been to the capitol and for all the students it will be the first time they get a chance to be on the floor of the House or the Senate,” Worland said. “This will be much more than a visit to the statehouse, though. The kids will all work together and elect their own governor for the weekend, they will elect their own party leaders and they will learn how to conduct themselves during a political hearing.”
Worland says the organization meets every Tuesday night and there is still an opportunity to sign up. For registration information contact the Decatur YMCA at 217-872-3835.