March 8, 2024
Empowering Teens:
YMCA Silicon Valley Committed to Youth Wellness and Thriving through Civic Engagement

A group of YMCA teens in front of the Capitol

San Jose, CA – In a continued and fortified commitment to the holistic development of teens, the YMCA of Silicon Valley proudly underscores its dedication to fostering the wellness and thriving of young individuals within our communities. The YMCA remains steadfast in its mission to cultivate environments where teens not only flourish but also discover a profound sense of belonging.

At the core of the YMCA's dedication to youth development lies the transformative Youth and Government® program, a national initiative designed to provide thousands of teens with a distinctive opportunity to explore the intricacies of government policies and methodologies. Spearheaded by the YMCA, this program immerses teens in experiential civic engagement, empowering them to engage in passionate debates on state-related issues and contribute to the formulation of legislation. The YMCA's commitment extends beyond empowerment, positioning itself as a vital resource for teens, thereby benefiting the larger community as a whole.

Last month, the YMCA Silicon Valley proudly led a group of teen students to the California YMCA Youth & Government, Model Legislature & Court Program event in the State Capital, where they not only showcased their dedication but achieved a notable legislative triumph. The successful passage of Palo Alto's AB 210 – SVC/Palo Alto, sponsored and lobbied by two students, Alexandru and Sean, is a testament to the dedication and leadership of the YMCA's youth participants. This piece of Mach legislation focused on expanding wildfire preventative measures within the Public Utilities Code. The proposed changes addressed the need to clear vegetation around high voltage powerlines and adding additional underground electrical lines for areas deemed high risk for wild fires.

Elena Chavez, Program Director at YMCA Silicon Valley, expressed her pride in the students' courage to step out of their comfort zones and embrace new challenges. "I am most proud of my students' willingness to try something new. For many, this is the first time they are stepping out of their comfort zone and joining a group without their close friends."

Highlighting strategic decisions that showcase quick thinking and adaptability, Chavez commended one student participant for trading her spot in the Appellate court to become EPA’s Bill Sponsor. "Katelyn demonstrated remarkable quick thinking and changes to the original bill sponsor's speech, successfully getting the bill past committee, which is one of the most challenging aspects."

Danny Koba, Senior Executive Director of Youth Development, articulates the profound significance of programs like Youth & Government in today's context, where teenagers grapple not only with academic enrichment but also with the critical social and emotional needs in a post-COVID world.

“With over two decades of involvement in supporting the YMCA Youth & Government Leadership program, I can attest firsthand to the heightened necessity for in-person teen-oriented groups, teams, and clubs. Many of our high school participants have transitioned from middle school to high school in an online environment, missing out on crucial face-to-face interactions. The journey into high school marks a symbolic entry into teenage years, where social skills and norms are refined through personal connections. Youth & Government serves as a vital platform for teenagers to cultivate these skills among peers in a secure setting.”

At the pinnacle of the Y program lies the annual conference held in the State Capitol, where teens converge, interact, and forge friendships with peers from across the state. This immersive experience necessitates active listening, compromise, and collaboration, as participants engage in constructive dialogue to find common ground and advance shared goals.

Research underscores a prevailing sentiment among teens that their communities undervalue their contributions. Through Youth & Government, the Y aims to equip teenagers with the tools to effectively communicate with their communities, instill the confidence to ensure their voices are heard, and demonstrate our genuine interest in their perspectives. By engaging them as partners, we empower young voices to shape the discourse and drive positive change within their communities.

As the YMCA of Silicon Valley continues its unwavering commitment to providing enriching experiences for teens, we remain dedicated to nurturing future leaders who actively engage in shaping their communities.

# # #

Contact: Patty Rally, Chief Development Officer, YMCA of Silicon Valley, [email protected]

About the YMCA of Silicon Valley YMCA of Silicon Valley is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the community through youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. Across Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, YMCA of Silicon Valley serves 250,000 members and participants — regardless of age, income, or background — by nurturing the potential of children and teens, improving health and well-being, and providing opportunities to give back and support our neighbors. For more information, visit: