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Empowering Tomorrow's Leaders: Sycamore High School Shines at Illinois YMCA Youth & Government

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Empowering Tomorrow's Leaders: Sycamore High School Shines at Illinois YMCA Youth & Government
Students who attended YAG's trip to Springfield pose on a staircase the Illinois Capitol Building.

The Sycamore-based Youth and Government Program has been fostering the next generation of leaders since its inception in 2016 based out of the Kishwaukee Family YMCA. Currently based out of Sycamore High School, it has seen remarkable growth and success over the years. Spearheaded by Kristin Miller and Sheri Wigant, in coordination with Jordan Wilkerson, this initiative has provided students with a unique opportunity to engage with the processes and procedures of state governance, while shaping them into informed and empowered citizens.

This year marked a significant milestone as Sycamore High School's delegation celebrated its eighth year of active participation in the Illinois YMCA Youth & Government program. With 44 students taking part, the delegation attended the 75th Annual Springfield Assembly, showcasing their dedication and passion for civic engagement.

One of the hallmarks of the program is its immersive approach to learning about government. Through assuming various roles such as legislators, attorneys, executive officials, lobbyists, and press members, students delve deep into the workings of Illinois government. The three-day conference, held at the actual Illinois Capitol and Supreme Court facilities, offers students a firsthand experience of the legislative process, allowing them to witness how bills transform into laws.

This year, the Sycamore High School delegation displayed exemplary performance across multiple categories:

  • Freshman Legislative Assistants: With 11 participants, including standout individuals like Jared Lanting and Caleb Fruit, the freshmen showcased their skills in various roles. Notably, Benji Devroye emerged as the winner in the final round, marking a significant achievement for the delegation and Luke Miller was runner-up. Both freshmen earned the chance to serve as Legislators next year.
  • Sophomore Lobbyists: With 14 participants, Felipe Beharovic stood out as the Most Effective Lobbyist, demonstrating persuasive advocacy skills and a keen understanding of the issues at hand.
  • Junior and Senior Legislators: With 19 juniors and seniors serving in the House and the Senate, the delegation made its presence felt in the legislative chambers. Notably, Nate Miller's election as Speaker of the House marked a historic moment for Sycamore High School, highlighting the caliber of leadership nurtured within the program.


In addition to individual achievements, the delegation also made substantial contributions to the legislative process, with six bills passing through committee. Covering a range of topics such as physician-assisted death, Legalization of Fireworks, and Prisoner Re-entry, these bills underscored the students' commitment to addressing pressing societal issues.

The program instills a culture of respectful discourse, as emphasized by Kristin Miller, Program Advisor. "The best part about this program is that these students are learning how to articulate their differences in opinions in a respectful way." This emphasis on civility and constructive dialogue not only enriches the learning experience but also prepares students to navigate complex issues in the real world.

During their time at the Springfield Assembly, students had the invaluable opportunity to meet and connect with Representative Jeff Keicher. This interaction provided them with firsthand insights into the workings of state government and allowed them to engage directly with a local legislator in Illinois politics.

As the Sycamore High School delegation continues to thrive in the Illinois YMCA Youth & Government program, it not only showcases the talent and dedication of its students but also underscores the invaluable role of civic education in shaping the leaders of tomorrow. The program reaffirms its commitment to empowering youth and cultivating a generation of informed and engaged citizens who are ready to make a positive impact on their communities and beyond. 

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