Youth Advocate Program

Youth Advocate Program Overview

Sponsored by YMCA of the USA’s Government Relations office, this four-month program – culminating at YMCA National Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C. – creates opportunities for high school students to gain practical, real-world experience advocating for policy solutions that help Ys address critical social issues in our three areas of focus: youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.

We’re excited to introduce our Youth Advocates for 2022! Click below to see the schools, communities, YMCAs, and states represented by each student:

2022 YMCA Youth Advocates

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

  • Learn about the Y’s work to elevate youth as changemakers 
  • Better understand the Y’s history, mission, brand and identity, and community impact 
  • Learn about the Y’s state and federal advocacy efforts and legislative priorities
  • Collaborate with their local YMCA and YMCA State Alliances  
  • Learn how to work with local, state, and federal officials to advance policy solutions 
  • Network with YMCA leaders from all 50 states including CEOs, CVOs, branch executives and program directors   
  • Invest in strengthening their schools, communities, and YMCAs 

For more information about the Youth Advocate Program, please email either Elena Rocha at or Derek Summerville at


Application Process

Applications for the Youth Advocate Program open each fall. Up to 50 high school students will be selected from across the country to participate:

Youth Advocate Application

Interested students should consider the following criteria before applying:

  • Must be a current YMCA member or program participant
  • Must be mature, motivated, ready to engage, and comfortable sharing their Y stories
  • Demonstrated interest in serving as advocates and leaders in their school/community
  • Passionate about representing the Y on a national level
  • Past Youth Advocate participants are not eligible to apply (Note: participation in Y-USA’s virtual 2021 Advocacy Days does not prevent a student from applying).
  • Students who are freshmensophomores and juniors will be given preference.
  • Y-USA is looking for student representation that reflects all dimensions of diversity. 


Program Fees & Transportation

The fee to participate in the Youth Advocate Program is $250, which includes:

  • Registration fee
  • Meals (except traveling to/from DC)
  • Hotel Accommodations (2 hotel nights).

This fee does not include transportation costs to/from DC. However, Y-USA will offer limited travel scholarships to Youth Advocates who need it (i.e. those who reside in hard to reach areas or areas not close to a transportation hub). Youth Advocates also work with their local Ys and YMCA State Alliances to partially or fully cover their fees and transportation.


Trainings & Assignments

To ensure that all Youth Advocates are as prepared as possible for their role at National Advocacy Days, all students are required to participate in virtual training sessions. Additional information will be shared in advance of each session:

  • Training Session 1 | Nov. 7, 2021: Program Overview & YMCA 101
  • Training Session 2 | Dec. 5, 2021: YMCA State & Federal Advocacy
  • Training Session 3 | Jan. 9, 2022: Y-USA Legislative Priorities & Advocacy Days Prep

As part of their training, Youth Advocates also complete a series of assignments:

1. Community Profile | Due: Dec. 10, 2021
Designed to help Youth Advocates learn as much as possible about their local community and YMCAincluding a visit (virtual or in-person) and interview with a branch executive/director. 

2. Peer Interview | Due: Jan. 9, 2022
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. 

3. State Alliance Call | Due: Feb. 4, 2022
Youth Advocates will connect with their State YMCA Alliance staff to learn more about the Y’s impact in their state, select a federal legislative priority for their action plans, and begin planning for Hill Meetings.

4. Action Plan | Due: Feb. 13, 2022
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 confirmed/planned meetings, and next steps for continued advocacy in their states/communities.