By Tamas Mondovics

In an effort to showcase local youth being involved in civic engagement, the Tampa Metropolitan YMCA sent nearly 100 local high school students involved with the Y’s Youth In Government program to attend the 60th Annual Florida State Assembly in Tallahassee.

The three-day, student-run program and model government session is hosted in at least 45 states across the country this year including an estimated 700 students from across Florida.

By sitting in the very same seats and in the chambers that senators and representatives preside, the students will debate hand-drafted legislation, argue court cases as law firms, while build leadership skills, gain self-confidence and discover how the government operates.

“The Y’s Youth In Government is a youth-run, youth-led model government process designed to prepare students for engaged and active citizenship built on the values of civil debate, statesmanship and research-based policy solutions,” said YMCA Communications Director Lalita Llerena.

Llerena added that during the Y’s dynamic Youth In Government course offered at all YMCA facilities, including the North Brandon Family Y and Campo Family Y in Valrico, teens gain the skills necessary to debate against ideas and not people.

“They learn how to take a stand for what they believe in, while still being open-minded and respectful of others’ opinions,” she said. “As young leaders, they also discover how to develop and articulate their point of view, present their argument, and debate the issues in a productive format.

Students who had the opportunity to attend this year’s annual assembly at the state capitol represented HB Plant High School, the Campo Family YMCA in Valrico, Oakwood Baptist Church in Bloomingdale, the Plant City Family YMCA and the Northwest Hillsborough Family YMCA.

Since 1957, the Florida Youth In Government program has brought many students to Tallahassee to debate in the actual Senate and House chambers.

According officials, senior students involved with the program are routinely rewarded with scholarships, college credit with two years of involvement, community recognition as well as the self-awareness and confidence to be leaders.

Junior Youth In Government for middle school students attend an assembly in April of each year.

Registration for the program is $75, which includes all materials and tee shirt. Registration forms can be downloaded from the YMCA website. Fall Delegate Conference is an additional $100 to the state program. This includes transportation, overnight lodging and meals for a weekend trip.

High school State Assembly takes place in Tallahassee in 2017. For more information please visit www.floridayig.net.