The Virginia YMCA sponsors school-based service clubs which stress leadership development and community service. These clubs are called Hi-Y, which means high school YMCA. The first such club was organized in Chapman, Kansas in 1889, and was for boys only. Later came Tri-Hi-Y, a club for girls. Today, most clubs are co-ed and are called Hi-Y or Youth & Government. Hi-Y clubs perform school and community service projects and also participate in the Virginia YMCA’s model government programs. Students from affiliated clubs have the opportunity to run for office, serve as committee chairs, and become appointed officers.
Model Judiciary Program
In 1975, the Virginia YMCA and the Virginia Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division partnered to launch the Model Judiciary Program (MJP). It was through the work of our Executive Director Fulton Johnson, VBA President Gibson Harris, and Delegate Gerald Baliles that MJP has worked to educate Virginia’s youth with a hands on experience in Virginia’s judicial system.
MJP is composed of three different levels; Trial, Appellate, and Supreme Court. Students will have the opportunity to portray attorneys, witnesses, and jurors while arguing cases in real court rooms with real judges/justices. These rounds culminate to the Supreme Court round where the top arguments from the Appellate round argue constitutionality in the Virginia Supreme Court with Virginia Supreme Court Justices.
Teen Leadership Conferences
Teen Leadership Conferences are designed to introduce 6th, 7th, and 8th graders to Virginia state government, especially the legislative branch. Leadership and character development activities are also included, along with a healthy dose of fun. Typically, TLC’s are held in certain counties for a certain grade level within the county. We have also provided TLCs for certain high schools. To bring a TLC to your county, please contact the Virginia YMCA.
Virginia Alliance of YMCA’s Advocacy Day- (TBD 2023)
The Virginia YMCA and the Virginia Alliance of YMCA’s has partnered together to create an interactive and educational program for teens to experience the YMCA’s advocacy day in action. Students will get an opportunity to network with legislators, lobbyist, and other governmental officials. They will learn what the strategic and legislative goals for the YMCA are while learning about the differences between advocacy and lobbying. Students can only be considered for this program by application and if they are registered for the Model General Assembly for the upcoming year. Please see the flyer for more information about the program, deadlines, and what is included.
How do I become an Advisor?
Contact the Virginia YMCA and we will be happy to help you. There are several ways you can serve as an Advisor. You do not have to bring students to our program through one of our clubs, but we certainly encourage you to start a club if there is interest. You can find more information in the Advisor Guide on the MGA Programs page.
How can I bring students to one of the programs?
We require all students, either from a YMCA or a school, to attend with an advisor. If an advisor is interested in bringing kids, please contact us and we will help get you started. If a parent wishes to get their child involved, feel free to contact us and we can help you find the nearest participating school or YMCA.
How do I start a club?
Contact the Virginia YMCA and will be happy to help get you started. Each club needs a sponsoring school or YMCA staff member from their local school or YMCA to advise the club. Advisors can view the Advisor Guide on the MGA Programs page for more information on how to get started.
National Youth Assembly
The YMCA’s virtual National Youth Assembly serves as a platform for youth conversations across the nation. Facilitated by youth leaders from around the country, our assembly sessions are youth-led discussions on themes that explore the personal/leadership development, challenges, and influence of young people. During each of our three sessions – held during the fall, winter, and spring of each school year – you’ll have the chance to meet and network with peers from a diverse array of communities, and share your experiences and perspectives on a wide variety of topics.
The Fall Session will be held on TBD. Please register before that date. Students can only participate through an affiliated group of the Virginia YMCA.
Conference On National Affairs
The Conference on National Affairs is held annually at YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly in Black Mountain, North Carolina and was established in 1967 with Virginia attending its first conference. Students from across the nation gather at this conference to debate issues of national and international importance. Each student brings a proposal to discuss in committee during the week-long process. Virginia typically brings a group of 10-20 students to represent the Commonwealth, and these students are selected by a committee at the Model General Assembly.
The YMCA Changemakers Institute is a virtual summer program available to all high school students in grades 9-12, including incoming 9th grade students and graduating high school seniors (the graduating classes of 2023 to 2026).
Institute participants will develop a Changemaker Initiative addressing an issue in their local communities as a member of one of our Changemaker Cohorts.
Youth Advocate Program/National Advocacy Days
Sponsored by YMCA of the USA’s Government Relations office, this four-month program – culminating at YMCA National Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C. – creates opportunities for high school students to gain practical, real-world experience advocating for policy solutions that help Ys address critical social issues in our three areas of focus: youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.
The 2022 Youth Advocate Program at YMCA National Advocacy Days* will take place (2023 TBD). Registration is due TBD.
The Y and Civic Health
Advancing “civic health” – how communities are organized to define and address public – requires inclusion of youth voices. The Y’s civic health strategy invests in our work to empower young people – not just as program participants, but as active contributors and stakeholders in decision-making within our organization and civic institutions.
The Y will pave the way for young people to improve the civic health of their communities by cultivating partnerships, expanding youth advocacy, engaging youth voice in leadership and governance, and ensuring equitable access and participation in our youth civic engagement programs.
There are opportunities for advisors, high school, and college students to advance civic health with the Y and our partner, the National Conference on Citizenship .
Youth Advocate Network
The YMCA’s national government relations office has created a network and research center for youth. The network provides many resources to aid students in advocacy, conducting legislative research, and participating in civic programs. The Youth Research Center provides students with tools for researching state officials, legislation, communities, and writing bills. There are many more opportunities and tools available for students in the network to aid in civic education. This free service is available to you by clicking on the link below.