7 steps to building YIG… in, at, or around your YMCA.
Remember these suggestions should be tailored to the needs and personalities of your local communities you serve.
1. Look to the Board of your local YMCA for past volunteers, parents of participants, or alumni of the Youth In Government program (Florida or otherwise) – while the details of the program may vary from state to state, the enthusiasm of those who have been involved is quite contagious. Also seek out those who may be able to help you make contact with your local high school (public or private), school system, or home school community.
2. Meet with the school principal to share the program’s goals and objectives. Ask to be directed to the appropriate member of the staff. Guidance counselors are an excellent alternative if the principal’s schedule does not allow for a meeting.
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Meet with a teacher to discuss the program and let him/her suggest the best approach for establishing a new Chapter. The chair of the Social Studies department may be an ideal place to begin this search. Please note that teachers in Social Studies, Debate, Math, Science, Theatre, and English have all made excellent advisors over the years.
3. Once an advisor has been identified, presentations to selected classes or meetings with students after school to introduce the program are effective. Whenever possible have a current participant, recent graduate, or prominent alumnus of the program make the “pitch” – this makes for a more effective sell and starts the trend of youth-run, youth-led early on.
4. Keep in mind that Youth In Government is not for everyone. While the program can be a life changing experience for some teens – the appeal is not universal. The program requires time, energy, fun-loving spirit, and commitment! Teens seem especially drawn to and value the program because of:
5. Look for students from a wide range of areas – not just the Social Studies classes. All abilities, socio-economic backgrounds, interests, and academic levels will benefit from participation.
Don’t forget TEEN members of your local YMCA!!
6. Once the recruiting process is under way, if possible identify a ‘core group’. This group should be between 5-8 students who are interested in the creation of a Chapter. It is wise to have a few members of this group be underclassmen – ensuring that not all of your leadership will graduate within your Chapter’s first year. The advisor or school administration may personally identify these students or you can recruit them from the student body. These students will be responsible for setting up the initial organization for your YIG chapter.
7. Something else to ponder… These suggestions are assuming that you will be establishing your YIG Chapter at a local school, however often times a local Y branch will become the home of the YIG Chapter in the area. This allows recruitment from multiple schools and also allows the Y to concentrate its resources – time and talents – on one unified group.
Within this Y-based Chapter, if membership from one particular school grows large enough (15+) you may consider recognizing that group as a separate chapter permitting them to meet on their school campus but still attend the Y-based meetings as the source of the YIG programming. Local governance will have to expand to allow for student leadership at the delegation and local chapter level. This is a great long-term plan for growing your YIG program.