Bezos Family Foundation partnership with YMCA empowers local students; see the details

Published 12:16 am Thursday, April 4, 2024

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More than 2,000 middle and high school students participate in YMCA Youth and Government in Texas.

The program aims to improve the state’s national standing in voter registration (44th) and voter turnout (47th), as measured by the University of Texas Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life.

But given the state’s size, the need for community support is ongoing to address funding gaps and drive expansion.

State Rep. Christian Manuel, right, speaks with Youth & Government students after a presentation earlier this year at the West Side Development Center. (Mary Meaux/The News)

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In 2023, the YMCA of Southeast Texas sent 16 Port Arthur students from Woodrow Wilson Early College High School And Bob Hope High School to the state conference in Austin thanks to a grant from Chevron-Phillips.

“With funding from the local United Ways, the program has been established on the campuses and over 30 students participated at the District level in the fall of 2022,” YMCA leaders said.

Efforts like these were supercharged this week with Texas YMCA announcing the launch of a $900,000 multi-year statewide partnership with the Bezos Family Foundation to support increasing access to YMCA Youth and Government programs.

More students, schools and local Ys are going to have the opportunity to participate.

The partnership will also identify strategies and best practices that successfully engage more culturally diverse students, schools and communities. The program culminates each year with participants representing their schools and communities at the state Youth and Government conference at the Texas Capitol.

Students 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, serving as news media and much more.

YMCA of Southeast Texas Director Kevin Pearson said YMCA Texas Youth and Government has a proven track record of helping young people become engaged, civically minded citizens and community leaders.

“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,” he said. “Together, we empower more young leaders to fulfill their potential and strengthen their communities.”

This new partnership with the Bezos Family Foundation complements longstanding statewide supporters such as the Irving, Texas-based Sumners Foundation, which has contributed nearly $5 million to support student access and program expansion.

More information is available at