Friday, March 03, 2006

YMCA DC Youth & Government Legislative Weekend

On March 10th and 11th the Metropolitan Washington chapter of the YMCA will be holding their fourth annual YMCA DC Youth & Government Legislative Weekend at American University. Clara Pang and Jason L. Reimer sent the following article written by Lisa Mendelson about the weekend and this year's Youth Mayor, Janeese Lewis.
DC native and high school senior Janeese Lewis appears to be a normal high school senior. She plays softball, sings in her church choir, and enjoys spending time with her friends. But in just one week, Janeese will be giving a State of the City address and presiding over legislative committees as the elected Youth Mayor of the YMCA DC Youth & Government Legislative Weekend. After weeks of campaigning and a series of speeches to peers, Janeese, the only female in the race for Youth Mayor, found herself victorious. "We got to see what running a campaign would actually be like, and it was challenging," said Janeese of her campaign. "I was proud to be the only female running and even more so when I won."

On March 10 and 11, American University will host over 125 students for the fourth annual YMCA DC Youth & Government Legislative Weekend. High school students representing all 12 Districts participate in the weekend-long event acting as committee members and other city government officials. As Youth Mayor, Janeese oversees her committee members who debate pressing DC issues.

Janeese has been involved in the event since she was a high school freshman. A Youth & Government program was set up through the student government club at her high school, School Without Walls. A Youth & Government alum saw promise in Janeese and encouraged her to get more involved in the program. "Having someone else believe in me allowed me to believe in myself," says Janeese. Now, as an experienced veteran of the program, she knows what issues are of high concern to students. "Each year, improving DC schools proves to be a big issue," says Janeese. "We are committed to making DC a great city, but if we want a world-class city, we need to have world-class schools."

Traditionally, DC schools have ranked low on national NAEP scores but have recently made a turn around under Superintendent Janey. "DC public schools have made great strides with Superintendent Janey at the helm but more can always be done. Janeese is a great example of the passionate students dedicated to improvement," says program founder and chairman Jason L. Reimer.

Students are not limited to discussing city and school revitalization. Other important issues facing students in DC include gentrification, DC voting rights, and HIV/AIDS, which will also be discussed in individual sessions during the weekend. These sessions allow students to debate issues and deliberate ways these problems can be solved. "Youth & Government inspires kids to think outside the box to say, 'If I don't speak up, no one will'," states Janeese. "It is the kind of encouragement many DC students need to get their voice heard."
If you have any further questions about the YMCA DC Youth & Government Legislative Weekend please contact Jason L. Reimer at

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