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Three teens outside at a youth and government conference

Will Rappold has been a part of the YMCA of Greater Rochester’s Youth and Government program going on three years. But this summer was his first time attending the YMCA’s Youth Conference on National Affairs (CONA).

“One of the main things we talked about at CONA was that change is possible,” said Will reflecting on his experience. “Whether you’re a part of something like this that changes you as a person, or if you put enough work in, you can change something bigger than yourself.”

CONA started 55 years ago as a way to engage teens involved in Youth and Government from across the country. Youth from more than 30 states were in attendance this year; Will was the only representative from District 1, the YMCA of Greater Rochester’s Youth and Government program. He described the event as a small-scale House of Representatives, where participants come together and submit proposals for different action based on how they think they can positively impact the nation’s future.

This past year in the Youth and Government program, Will was the Legislative Committee Chair. Zach Smith, who oversees the YMCA of Greater Rochester’s Youth and Government program, noted that Will is a rising star within the program and his school.

“Will’s passion, dedication and authenticity while addressing his peers at the YMCA’s Youth and Government State Conference earned him a nomination to attend CONA this year,” said Smith, Director of Teen Programs in the YMCA of Greater Rochester’s Community Services Division.

a group of 5 teens at a Youth and Government conference

Will called CONA a formative experience. And while he doesn’t see a future in government for himself, he does admit that it has been an amazing experience getting to learn about how the government functions.

“We discuss this a lot in the program. You hear ‘Youth and Government.’ ‘Government’ is the side part of it,” said Will. “This program to me has really been more about the people I meet and seeing that other people care about the nation’s future.”

And that’s the exact lesson he’ll be taking with him and applying in his future no matter what path he takes.

“The program is really about building a leader in the community. I think it teaches you to be a better person, but adding government part in teaches you to be a better citizen of the nation.”

To learn more about Youth and Government, click here.