As high school seniors graduate, they begin to make life-changing decisions. YMCA of Greater Houston’s Youth and Government is honored to have had this next generation of leaders in our program.
These youth have spent months gathering with their peers, after hours of preparation, to debate governmental procedures and explore civic engagement. The Youth and Government program encourages youth development by helping participants grow in public speaking, critical thinking and confidence.
Before joining Youth and Government, high school senior Moriah Johnson says she struggled with public speaking. “I cared a little too much about what other people thought,” says Johnson. “I learned that if I know what I’m talking about and present it with confidence, then I’m good.” Johnson’s confidence led her to be more involved in the program this year.
Youth & Government allows youth to choose one of four sections to participate in: legislative, judicial, media and state affairs.
High school senior Anna Catherine Purcell began in Junior Youth and Government in 7th grade. At the state conference this year, she competed in the judicial section, and won top prosecution attorney and a $2,000 scholarship.
“It’s given me a voice,” says Purcell. “It’s taught me how to speak and how to think critically. When I see things, I think ‘Is this right? Is this wrong? Why is it right? Why is it wrong?’ I’ve learned how to vocalize those things as well.”
This critical thinking is just some of the evidence of growth Program Director Jackie Nagle has witnessed through her time with the program. She remembers youth who came across as shy, quiet and lacking confidence. Now, she sees them running for office, speaking in front of 1,300 peers and winning awards.
“It’s a whole night and day difference,” says Nagle. “They get up there and hold themselves professionally, debate with confidence and reason their way through questions and situations. I’m so proud of how much they’ve grown and become leaders through this
program and I feel honored to have had a small part in that.”
This year, at state conference, high school junior Quentin Keller was elected governor by his peers. Keller says the campaign really helped him come out of his shell. His plans for next year include utilizing the years of experience he has with the program to be a servant leader and make sure his peers’ experience is their best yet.
“I think it is so important for youth to understand that we are the next generation,” says Keller. “If we are unaware of our government, how is this nation going to succeed?”
The YMCA of Greater Houston is thrilled to encourage youth development in these young adults as they create a legacy and become strong leaders. Congratulations on all of your achievements, class of 2015!