California YMCA Youth and Government

2555 3rd Street, Suite 215


In the mid 1930s, Clement “Pete” Duran, a YMCA Director from Albany, New York, wanted to find a meaningful experience for young people that might inspire them to become active and concerned participants in government as citizens. He struck upon the idea of a “model” legislature that would provide “hands on” learning. The slogan, “Democracy Must Be Learned By Each Generation,” was developed by Duran to interpret the purpose of the program. The first Model Legislature was held in Albany, New York in 1936.

With encouragement from the National YMCA, the program spread rapidly to nearby states. The California YMCA Youth & Government program was initiated in 1948 when Duran traveled to California and joined Charles Van Winkle in seeking support in Sacramento. They met with and received the immediate encouragement of Governor Earl Warren. From that point forward, California YMCA Youth and Government has received the full support of each successive governor.

Originally a program within the West Field Office of the YMCA of the USA, California YMCA Youth & Government was chartered in January, 2001 as an independent YMCA responsible for the statewide program. As such it continues to provide its specialized youth programs for YMCAs throughout California.

Since 1948, California YMCA Youth & Government has provided outstanding educational and social experiences for more than 70,000 middle and high school youth.

The mission of California YMCA Youth & Government is to build values-based leadership and civic engagement in California’s youth to strengthen our democracy.