PHOTO: Jon Dunn, a senior at Middletown High School South, receives the Servant Leader Scholarship at the YMCA Youth & Government Conference in Trenton for his volunteer work.
SHREWSBURY, NJ – Twenty-four students from various Monmouth County middle and high schools represented The Community YMCA at the 78th Annual Youth and Government Conference, April 15-17, at the historic State House in Trenton.
YMCA Youth and Government is a statewide civic engagement program that teaches middle school and high school students the value of democracy through hands-on learning experiences.
Students from across New Jersey attended the conference and had the chance to hear from New Jersey Assemblyman and Princeton Professor Andrew Zwicker. Zwicker provided students with insight on the campaigning process and answered questions about his dual roles as a scientist and a politician.
Students spent the weekend simulating the duties of New Jersey legislators, lobbyists, press corps, and the judicial branch. They created bills to improve life in New Jersey that included tax reform, legalization of physician assisted suicide, requiring LGBTQIA+ curriculum be taught in New Jersey health classes, and more.
The Judicial Program debated the constitutionality of bills, heard and argued appellate court cases, while press delegates interviewed legislators and officers and created daily newspapers and video presentations.
President and CEO of The Community YMCA Rhonda Anderson said, “We are proud of our students’ many accomplishments at this year’s conference. Youth and Government is an example of how the Y helps nurture the potential of young people through civic engagement.”
The Community YMCA delegation was recognized with a number of awards at the conference’s closing ceremony:
Jon Dunn (Middletown High School South) was awarded the Servant Leader Scholarship for his volunteer work with Somalian refugees, as well as with Relay for Life and Breast Intentions.
Jonathan Marty (Holmdel High School) and Meagan Loh (Middletown High School South) were elected to join the Youth Secretariat.
Tiffany Kumar (William R. Satz School) and Neil Estrada (Thompson Middle School) were honored as the Outstanding Junior Legislators.
Anthony Cendagorta (St. John Vianney High School) ran the courts this year as Chief Justice.
Brian Gilbride (Marine Academy of Science and Technology) was recognized with the Outstanding Brief Award for having written the best judicial brief at the conference.
JP Fleming (Middletown High School South) was honored with the Outstanding Press Delegate Award.
Fleming and Christina Froelich (Middletown High School South) were both invited to serve as alternates for the Conference on National Affairs (CONA). Each year, only a handful of New Jersey high school students are offered the opportunity to participate in CONA, an event that attracts civically minded students from all over the country and allows them to debate issues of national importance with one another.
In addition to engaging local students in state politics, The Community YMCA’s civic engagement initiative also introduces students to international diplomacy through the Model United Nations program.
For more information about the Y’s civic engagement programs, call, 732.671.5505.