YMCA Youth and Government Conference
Apr 6, 2023

2023 Illinois YMCA Youth & Government Conference

The YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago is excited to share news of our student leaders — Earnest, Darnell, and Olivia — who recently participated in the 2023 Illinois YMCA Youth & Government Conference in Springfield, Illinois, this month!

High school students participating in the Illinois YMCA Youth and Government program immerse themselves in all aspects of the state government, taking on the roles of legislators, attorneys, lobbyists, and more. The program culminates in a three-day mock-General Assembly, during which young leaders of tomorrow debate issues and bills in the Illinois Capitol and Supreme Court facilities.

This is the first year that the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago has participated in the program, and we couldn’t be prouder of the hard work that our students put in!

At the conference, Earnest served as a state senator, and Darnell served as a state representative. Together, they collaborated to write and propose mock legislation that addressed student mental health, requiring Illinois schools to staff one school counselor or social worker per 250 students. The current Illinois ratio is one counselor to 665 students. Although the bill didn’t pass through the Senate, Earnest and Darnell took it in stride and worked to generate ideas that would make their bill successful next year! 

Olivia served as an attorney, representing the State of Illinois in defending against an appeal, brought by a defendant convicted of first-degree murder, in a fictional case as part of the Judicial track. Olivia researched four real Illinois case decisions and drafted a comprehensive Bench Memo that served as her written argument for the appeal. She later presented an oral argument based on her Bench Memo as a one-person team before a panel of other student attorneys serving as judges in Olivia’s case at the Illinois YMCA Youth and Government 2023 General Assembly.

In addition, Olivia served as a judge in three cases over the General Assembly weekend. She reviewed the constitutionality of bills that were passed by the Illinois YMCA Youth and Government legislature and signed "into law" by the 2023 Illinois YMCA Youth and Government Governor.

Our students told us that they had such an amazing time that they’re going to recruit friends to participate next year! Earnest, Darnell, and Olivia — you did a great job, and we can’t wait to see what you do next!

Special thanks to lead advisor Jill Edelblute, Senior Director of Government Relations, and YMCA of Metro Chicago staff members Justin Shlensky, Teddy Peterson, and Chiamaka Onuoha for their work to ensure that our students felt empowered and prepared, while having tons of fun!

Interested in building leadership skills and creating positive change in your community? The YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago is committed to creating a safe, welcoming environment for young adults to learn new skills, connect with their peers, and reach their full potential. Check out the Y’s Youth and Teen Leadership programs to learn more!