Youth Advocate Program

Program Dates

February 11-14, 2024
Washington, D.C.
J.W. Marriott Hotel


Program Resources

Program Application
Program Flyer
Program Spotlight Video
YMCA Advocacy & Priorities


Youth Advocate Program Overview

Sponsored by YMCA of the USA, this four-month program, culminating at YMCA National Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C., creates opportunities for high school students (Grades 9-12) to gain real-world experience advocating for policy solutions that help Ys address critical issues in our three 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.


Application Process

Applications for the Youth Advocate Program open each fall. Up to 2 high school students per state 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, 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

Thanks to philanthropic support, transportation to and from Washington, D.C. for all Youth Advocates is paid for by Y-USA. Youth Advocates will receive instructions for making their travel arrangements once registration opens for National Advocacy Days.

The registration fee to participate in the Youth Advocate Program is $250, which covers all of the following:

  • Registration for National Advocacy Days
  • Meals (except while traveling to/from DC)
  • Hotel Accommodations at J.W. Marriott (3 hotel nights)

Hotel reservations for all Youth Advocates and chaperones will be made by Y-USA, so you do not need to make your own arrangements at the conference hotel.


COVID-19 Policy

To ensure the safety of all participants, Youth Advocates and Chaperones will be required to present one of the following upon arrival at YMCA National Advocacy Days in DC:

  • COVID-19 Vaccination (Official Vaccination Card or Government-Issued E-Cards); OR
  • Negative COVID-19 Test (at-home tests accepted, PCR tests encouraged if available), conducted no earlier than 72 hours prior to travel to DC

Note: If public health conditions necessitate, Y-USA may require all attendees to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test regardless of vaccination status.

No personal health information, vaccination records, or test results will be recorded or stored by YMCA of the USA during this process – only verification that the participant provided one of the two required forms of documentation at check-in.


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.