Students at the Youth and Government Conference
Apr 29, 2024

Recap: 2024 Illinois YMCA Youth & Government Conference

Last month, the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago participated in the Illinois YMCA Youth & Government Conference in Springfield, IL, for the second year in a row! 

We couldn’t be prouder of our delegation of five high school students who represented the YMCA of Metro Chicago at the 75th General Assembly. Our delegation presented two bills before the Youth General Assembly and one judicial argument before the Youth Supreme Court, which they began preparing, researching, and drafting back in September 2023. 

“Our delegation accomplished a great deal over this weekend, and we are incredibly proud of our student participants,” said Justin Shlensky, Vice President of Legal & Risk Management, YMCA of Metro Chicago, and an advisor for the Y’s Youth & Government program. “This is the second year of our delegation in the Youth & Government program, and I am humbled and honored that we play a part in strengthening our participants’ futures by connecting them to their purpose, potential, and each other.” 

On the Legislative track, our delegation successfully passed a bill that would improve the ratio of students to high school counselors and social workers from the current state average of 650:1 to 250:1. Their second bill, which was awaiting a signature by the Youth Governor at the time of our delegation’s departure, aimed to reform the structure in which Illinois legislative district maps are drawn, in order to end gerrymandering and political party involvement in the drafting of maps.  

On the Judicial track, our participant, Olivia (who is back for her second year with Shlensky as her advisor), single-handedly presented an oral argument on behalf of the People of the State of Illinois during an appeal of a first-degree murder conviction of a sentenced defendant. Following oral arguments, the Youth Supreme Court decided to affirm on the issues on appeal, thereby finding for our participant! Our Judicial participant was also elected as an Associate Chief Justice, and she presided over two Youth Supreme Court hearings on a different case on appeal. 

“My experience with this program completely changed my post-secondary plans,” said Olivia. “I never imagined myself pursuing any kind of law, but after taking on the role as youth attorney, I realized how much I enjoyed the challenge of researching, writing, and developing my argument! The support and encouragement from the adults in this program provided the structure we needed to accomplish all that we did by the end of the conference. I am glad that I took a chance and did something very foreign to me, because the education and knowledge that I received is irreplaceable.” 

Special thanks to our Head Advisor, Jill Edelblute, Senior Director of Government Relations, as well as Justin Shlensky and Chiamaka Onuoha, who helped lead our students to success this year!  

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