Youth Advocate Program

Youth Advocate Program Overview

Sponsored by YMCA of the USA, this four-month program brings up to 2 high school students per state to YMCA National Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C. to meet with their Members of Congress and advocate for policy solutions that help Ys address critical issues in our areas of impact: youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.

As a part of the Youth Advocate Program, participants will:

  • Participate in virtual trainings and network with peers around the country
  • Better understand the Y’s history, mission, impact, advocacy, and legislative priorities
  • Collaborate with their local Y and YMCA State Alliance to craft an advocacy plan
  • Learn how to work with local, state, and federal officials to advance policy solutions
  • Meet with Congressional Offices to share their Y stories and advocate for Y priorities
  • Strengthen the civic health of their schools, communities, and Ys

Watch our program spotlight to learn more about the experience in DC, then see the states and Ys represented by our latest cohort of YMCA Youth Advocates.

Youth Advocate Application Process

Applications for the Youth Advocate Program open at the start of each school year. This year, approximately 50 high school students (up to 2 students per state) will be selected to serve as Youth Advocates.

Youth Advocate Application (application is closed)
Deadline: September 29, 2023

Interested students should consider the following criteria before applying:

  • Must be a current YMCA member or program participant
  • Must be mature, motivated, and comfortable sharing their Y stories
  • Interested in serving as advocates and leaders in their community
  • Passionate about representing the Y on a national level
  • Past Youth Advocate participants are not eligible to apply
  • Freshmensophomores and juniors will be given preference.
  • Y-USA is looking for student representation that reflects all dimensions of diversity. 

Program Fees & Transportation

YMCA of the USA has received philanthropic support for this program to cover:

  • Registration for National Advocacy Days
  • Meals (except while traveling to/from DC)
  • Hotel accommodations (3 hotel nights)
  • Travel to/from Washington, DC

Youth Advocates will receive instructions for making their travel arrangements once registration opens for National Advocacy Days. Hotel reservations for all Youth Advocates and staff chaperones will be made by Y-USA.

Trainings & Assignments

To ensure that all Youth Advocates are as prepared as possible for their role at National Advocacy Days, all participants are required to attend four virtual training sessions, all of which take place on Sundays from 4:00-5:00pm ET (recordings will be emailed to Youth Advocates after each session is complete):

  • Training Session 1 | Overview and YMCA Principles & Practices
  • Training Session 2 | YMCA State & Federal Advocacy Structure
  • Training Session 3 | Y-USA Legislative Priorities & Advocacy Plans
  • Training Session 4 | National Advocacy Days Logistics

As part of their training, Youth Advocates also complete a series of assignments. Click each assignment name to view the submission form, along with a template you can download:

1. Community Profile
Designed to help Youth Advocates learn as much as possible about their local community and YMCA, including a visit (virtual or in-person) and interview with the branch executive or program director.

2. Peer Interview
Youth Advocates will be paired to interview each other about their Community Profiles, helping them understand the breadth and depth of YMCA programs and services nationally, and how Ys in other states may differ or be similar. Note: Both partners will need to have submitted their Community Profiles before they complete their interview.

3. Advocacy Plan
Completed in collaboration with their State YMCA Alliances, this plan brings together everything Youth Advocates will need to be successful during their Hill Meetings at Advocacy Days, including their Y story, their selected legislative priority, list and schedule of requested/confirmed meetings, and a meeting outline/agenda.

Program Chaperones

Y-USA is inviting Youth Development professionals to apply to serve as a staff chaperone for the 2024 Youth Advocate Program at National Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C.

Serving as a staff chaperone is a full-time commitment, from the moment of arrival until departure. Staff chaperones will have access to all National Advocacy Days content, materials and sessions, and will participate in all Youth Advocate Programming.

Y-USA will cover registration and hotel costs for all chaperones, and additional funds will be available to help alleviate chaperone travel costs. 

To apply, complete the Chaperone Application (application is closed) by September 29, 2023.

Please review the chaperone requirements below before applying:

  • Chaperones must make the safety and well-being of the Youth Advocates in our care the top priority. Chaperones will be required to sign YMCA of the USA’s Child Abuse Prevention Policies and Code of Conduct, and complete two free online Praesidium trainings on child abuse prevention and mandatory reporting. Y-USA will also verify that chaperones have had a Y-USA approved background check conducted within the past two years.
  • Chaperones must have YMCA experience working with high school students.
  • Chaperones must be committed to youth as changemakers and creating opportunities for young people to elevate their voices. Chaperones must be able to create an environment that enables youth to lead and empower their peers to engage.
  • Chaperones must be familiar with advocacy and the role it plays in strengthening community.
  • Chaperones must maintain the Y’s position as a non-partisan organization while facilitating Youth Advocate programming.
  • Chaperone must arrive on Sunday, Feb. 11 by 1 pm and depart on Wednesday, Feb. 14 no earlier than 5 pm. Accommodations can be made if travelling from the West Coast to DC.