“The best thing that comes out of the Y’s Youth & Government and Mock Trial programs is that kids learn to think critically, practice their research and presentation skills and get used to speaking in front of other people. They overcome being shy,” says Kiana Cunningham, the Madison Area YMCA’s associate teen director who teaches both 10-week classes that provide hands-on learning experiences about leadership opportunities in civics.
Kiana shares the excitement that teens in the Mock Trial program experience. “They become really passionate about their topics,” she says, noting that the class takes work. “They learn the necessary skills—and learn what is expected of them—and they deliver.”
“Mock Trial really helped me a lot with being persuasive in my arguments and with public speaking,” says 12-year-old Helen Kilman who participated in the program last fall. “I practiced research skills and learned about reputable sources and not reputable sources,” says the Madison Junior School 7th grader who is a regular Washington Post reader and NPR listener. “I love doing debates. It’s really cool to be part of it and see it all in action,” she says, adding that Kiana had a big part in making the program “awesome.”
In session now through April the Youth & Government program for 6th-12th graders helps teens develop research and critical thinking skills needed for bill writing and debate and provides opportunities to take on roles such as plaintiff, defendant and witness. The class culminates in a Presentation Day where families and friends will be invited to attend an oral and visual presentation of the bills the teens worked on. The bills are then hung up at the Y’s Boszhardt Family Teen Center located at the Y.
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