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Press Release

Somerset County YMCA Inspires Teens to Become Global Citizens

byKisha Belton |
  • Somerset County YMCA

YMCA introduces programs to encourage youth leadership and civic engagement.


Kisha Belton
Somerset County YMCA 
908-766-7898 x344

Basking Ridge, NJ, June 20, 2017 Somerset County YMCA is proud to launch a civic engagement program for middle and high school students, which includes Youth and Government™ and Model UN. These programs are designed to help young teens develop important leadership skills and gain an understanding of global, state and local issues, while experiencing the value of serving as active and productive members of their communities. 

As a charitable community organization, Somerset County YMCA makes education and leadership a priority so that all children have the chance to achieve their personal and academic goals. According to a 2011 NIH study, “Thirty Year Trends in U.S. Adolescents’ Civic Engagement,” a civic divide exists in which “people with higher levels of education have historically participated in electoral politics and the civic affairs of their communities more than those with less education.” The YMCA’s new Youth and Government and Model UN programs help all students develop key job and college readiness skills to even the playing field for future academic and professional success.

“Somerset County YMCA is committed to youth development and civic engagement,” said David M. Carcieri, President and CEO of Somerset County YMCA. “Leadership, community service and academic enrichment programs, such as Youth and Government and Model UN, encourage all children to perform at their very best and provide them with opportunities to pursue their ambitions. The Y is proud to offer students these important experiential learning opportunities free of academic prerequisites.”

Through Youth and Government, a signature YMCA of the USA program, students learn about civic engagement and responsibility through hands-on experience. In April, a delegation of six teens from Hillsborough YMCA, a branch of Somerset County YMCA, successfully drafted and presented four bills before the New Jersey Youth and Government Junior Legislature Assembly at a state-wide conference held in Trenton.

As a second year Youth and Government participant and Commissioner of Junior Legislation in charge of middle school programs, 18-year-old Cassidy Gabriel of Flemington led the charge to launch a Youth and Government delegation at Hillsborough YMCA.

“As a teenager, you may have strong feelings about how to solve societal problems, but no outlet. Youth and Government gave me a voice and a platform to get my ideas heard by people in power who could affect change,” said Gabriel. “You don’t have to aspire to be a future governor or elected politician to benefit from this program. Participants can improve their problem solving and public speaking skills and realize their ability to make changes in the community.”

The six student delegates, Haley Diaz and Mihika Raman of Hillsborough Middle School; Dhruv Patel, Rohan Shah, Jordan Spector and Shreyank Yelagoila of Montgomery Upper Middle School, selected and researched bills addressing renewable energy, equalizing sports for boys and girls in public schools, minimum age exceptions for marriage and hiring requirements for public school teachers. All bills proposed by Hillsborough YMCA’s delegation were voted to be heard in chamber and three of the four bills were passed into law.

“I was incredibly impressed with the mature topics selected by Somerset County YMCA’s delegation, and very proud that these first-year participants were so successful,” said Gabriel. “Some topics were more highly debated than others, but everyone was respectful and supportive of one another. In the Youth and Government program, the Y’s core values of Honesty, Caring, Respect and Responsibility effectively and successfully guide productive debates on issues.”

Additionally, Somerville YMCA, a branch of Somerset County YMCA, will launch Model UN, a unique program that allows students to learn by example how the United Nations operates and its role in peacekeeping and humanitarian work. In this student-led program, participants will gain a global perspective through collaboration, cultural understanding and problem-solving. The program will run on Fridays from July 12 through August 18, from 9:00-11:00am at Somerville YMCA, located at 2 Green Street. Registration is currently open to all students entering grades six through nine.

Student leader and six-time Model UN delegate, Meher Mankikar from Bridgewater-Raritan High School will launch the Y’s delegation.

“I’m grateful to the Y for giving me the opportunity to get more kids involved with Model UN through a new delegation,” said Mankikar. “Model UN has had such a positive impact on my life – it has provided me with opportunities to grow and mature and to challenge myself. Students who are interested in world affairs, cooperating well with others, gaining leadership skills or public speaking should consider joining this program.”

To register or learn more about the Youth and Government at Hillsborough YMCA, please contact Matt Gray at, and for Model UN at Somerville YMCA, please contact Kate Russo at



About Somerset County YMCA
The Y is the nation’s leading nonprofit committed to strengthening the community through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. At Somerset County YMCA, we believe everyone, regardless of age, income or background, should have the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive. For information about Somerset County YMCA and financial assistance, visit us at



Youth and Government 2017

PHOTO CAPTION - Youth and Government 2017: (left to right) Jordan Spector of Montgomery; Haley Diaz and Mihika Raman of Hillsborough; Youth Advisor and Junior Legislature Commissioner, Cassidy Gabriel of Hillsborough; Rohan Shah Shreyank Yelagoila and Dhruv Patel of Monroe represented Somerset County YMCA at the Youth and Government™ Conference in Trenton.