YMCA of the USA Announces Partnership with Bezos Family Foundation, Increasing Student Access to Youth Civic Engagement Opportunities

CHICAGO (March 19, 2024)—YMCA of the USA (Y-USA), the national resource office for the 2,600+ YMCAs across the country, is pleased to announce the launch of a $2.8 million multi-year national partnership with the Bezos Family Foundation. This partnership will support increasing access to YMCA Youth and Government ® programs in Florida, Kentucky and Texas, offering more students, schools and local Ys the opportunity to participate. 

This partnership will help close the youth civic engagement gap and connect students – particularly those whose access has been limited, non-existent or have felt excluded from the democratic process – to take an active role in the civic process, learning to advance their ideas through networking and civil discourse. Over a three-year period, this partnership will help broaden, sustain and expand access to Youth and Government programming in the selected states, with a long-term goal of scaling and applying these practices to all Youth and Government programs nationwide.  

The partnership will also identify strategies and best practices that successfully engage more culturally diverse students, schools and communities. Each year, the program will culminate with participants representing their schools and communities at their state Youth and Government conference. Students will develop skills and knowledge in areas such as serving as State Senator/Representative, sponsoring a bill, taking part in mock trials, advocating as a lobbyist, running for office and much more.  

Since 1936, YMCA Youth and Government has offered students across the country the opportunity to serve their schools, communities, states and nation through model government, civic engagement, advocacy, leadership and character development, service-learning and more to amplify youth voice and strengthen youth civic health.  

The Bezos Family Foundation, launched in 2000, is focused on a world in which all young people reach their full potential and meaningfully contribute to society. Partnering with the Y establishes a strong alignment of both organizations’ values, specifically through the YMCA Youth and Government program.  

“The Y’s Youth and Government program has a proven track record of helping young people become engaged, civically minded citizens and community leaders,” said Suzanne McCormick, President and CEO of Y-USA. “We are grateful for the generous support of the Bezos Family Foundation which will help us expand the program’s reach to young people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to participate. Together, we empower more young leaders to fulfill their potential and strengthen their communities.” 

“Through its Youth and Government programs, YMCA of the USA joins our commitment to expanding access to crucial action civics education,” Bezos Family Foundation Program Officer Marilyn López said. “This programming offers young people more than just knowledge; it provides them with the opportunity to put theory into practice by applying their understanding of democracy to real-life situations. We’re excited to contribute to the YMCA’s efforts in expanding action civics education to more young people. In today’s world, fostering youth action, self-efficacy, and a deeper understanding of our roles in democracy is more crucial than ever.” 

About the Y
Driven by its founding mission, the Y has served as a leading nonprofit committed to strengthening community for more than 175 years. The Y empowers everyone, no matter who they are or where they’re from, by ensuring access to resources, relationships, and opportunities for all to learn, grow and thrive. By bringing together people from different backgrounds, perspectives and generations, the Y’s goal is to improve overall health and well-being, ignite youth empowerment and demonstrate the importance of connections in and across 10,000 communities nationwide. Learn more at ymca.org.  

About Bezos Family Foundation 
The Bezos Family Foundation is an independent, nonprofit private Foundation founded by Mike and Jackie Bezos, who along with their family serve as the Foundation’s directors. Since 2001, the Foundation has partnered with remarkable organizations and individuals to transform how we prepare young people from prenatal through young adulthood to pursue their own path for success and meaningfully contribute to society. In addition to grantmaking, the Foundation runs three in-house programs: Bezos Scholars Program, Students Rebuild and Vroom. Learn more at bezosfamilyfoundation.org.  

YMCA of the USA Announces Partnership with Bezos Family Foundation, Increasing Student Access to Youth Civic Engagement Opportunities