Leaders are developed by doing, and the Wisconsin YMCA Youth in Government (YIG) program seeks to foster the next generation of thoughtful, committed, and active citizens. The program aims to enable young people to prepare for leadership through participatory training in the theory and practice of determining public policy.

Guided by the organization’s motto, “Democracy must be learned by each generation,” our program builds values-based leadership and civic engagement in Wisconsin’s youth in order to strengthen participation in our democracy. Our efforts build, strengthen, and encourage life assets and positive character traits. The hands-on program provides positive opportunities and experiences for youth. Participants strengthen their communities by becoming active and responsible contributors who are inspired to lead and are empowered to create meaningful change.

The Wisconsin YMCA Youth in Government program provides teens with a unique opportunity to learn how to be civically engaged by acting as state legislators, lawyers, justices, and media. Students simulate all phases and positions of the actual state government and are challenged with many of the same issues our real legislators must face in their elected offices. The program is open to all students in grades 7-12 and engages hundreds of students from across the state each year. During the culminating conference in Madison, participants take over the historic halls and chambers of the Wisconsin State Capitol and Supreme Court. Legislation is debated and court cases are decided, as students apply skills they have gained in the program.

Through Youth In Government, you have the opportunity to:

  • Join together with youth leaders from around the state to debate issues that are important to you

  • Listen to and learn from delegates with different experiences

  • Research public issues and become aware of local, state, national and international concerns

  • Accept your civic responsibilities and your leadership role

  • Let your voice be heard and get involved in the decision-making process



Youth Representatives and Senators identify state issues important to them, their families, their schools, or their communities and write legislation to improve our state. Delegates present their bills in committee hearings at Pre-Gov and on the house and senate floors in the Capitol Building in Madison.



Judicial delegates play the dual role of lawyer and justice. Court members prepare for hearings and make arguments before Youth Justices. Each student will prepare a brief and argue their assigned side of a case, plus have an opportunity to serve on the bench and pass judgment on cases.



Media delegates are responsible for reporting, producing, editing, and publishing several news programs each day via newspaper, video, photography, and social media. They interact with all program areas and report their findings to students and advisors at the conference.






These student leaders are voted in by their peers and serve the state program for the duration of their one-year term. They determine which bills to sign or veto, give encouragement through speeches, and help to administer the conference.


Student leadership opportunities abound in Wisconsin YMCA Youth in Government! In addition to the executive branch delegates, each program area elects their own leadership team each year. Two students from each delegation are selected to serve on a student-run Steering Committee, and the Youth Governor assembles a Governor’s Cabinet to aid in decision-making at the conferences. Each program area also elects its own leadership for the conferences, such as committee chairs, speakers and clerks for the Senate and assemblies, justices and marshals for the Supreme Court, and editors for Media.

Beyond the Model Government conference, students are selected each year to participate in the following statewide and national YIG leadership programs:

  • CONA (Conference on National Affairs)

  • NJC (National Judicial Competition)

  • National Advocacy Days

  • State Advocacy Day