Texas YMCA Announces Partnership with Bezos Family Foundation

Published On: April 16, 2024Categories: Blog, Press Release, Teens

Texas YMCA Announces Partnership with Bezos Family Foundation, Increasing Student Access to Youth Civic Engagement Opportunities

HOUSTON (April 9, 2024)—The Texas YMCA, the state resource office for the 200+ YMCAs across Texas, is pleased to announce the launch of a $900,000 multi-year statewide partnership with the Bezos Family Foundation. This partnership will support increasing access to YMCA Youth and Government® programs in Texas, offering more students, schools and local Ys the opportunity to participate. The partnership is part of a $2.9 million investment that will also support youth civic engagement in Florida and Kentucky.

This partnership will help close the youth civic engagement gap and connect students – particularly those whose access has been limited, non-existent or have felt excluded from the democratic process – to take an active role in the civic process, learning to advance their ideas through networking and civil discourse. Over a three-year period, this partnership will help broaden, sustain and expand access to Youth and Government programming in the selected states, with a long-term goal of scaling and applying these practices to all Youth and Government programs nationwide.

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.

In Texas, where more than 2,000 middle- and high-school students participate in YMCA Youth and Government, 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. Locally, 600+ Teens participated in Texas State Youth &Government and YMCA Texas Model United Nations programs in 2023.

Since 1946, YMCA Texas Youth and Government has offered students across the state the opportunity to serve their schools and communities through model government, civic engagement, advocacy, leadership and character development, and service-learning to amplify youth voices and strengthen youth civic health.

The Bezos Family Foundation, launched in 2000, is focused on a world in which all young people reach their full potential and meaningfully contribute to society. Partnering with the Y establishes a strong alignment of both organizations’ values, specifically through the YMCA Youth and Government program.

“YMCA Texas Youth and Government has a proven track record of helping young people become engaged, civically minded citizens and community leaders,” said Stephen Ives, president and CEO, YMCA of Greater Houston. “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. Together, we empower more young leaders to fulfill their potential and strengthen their communities.”

“Through its Youth and Government programs, the YMCA joins our commitment to expanding access to crucial action civics education,” Bezos Family Foundation Program Officer Marilyn López said. “This programming offers young people more than just knowledge; it provides them with the opportunity to put theory into practice by applying their understanding of democracy to real-life situations. We’re excited to contribute to the YMCA’s efforts in expanding action civics education to more young people. In today’s world, fostering youth action, self-efficacy, and a deeper understanding of our roles in democracy is more crucial than ever.”

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.

“We’ve supported YMCA Texas Youth and Government for nearly 30 years because we see the program’s importance in training our next generation of public servants and leaders,” said Lon Williams, Chair of The Sumners Foundation Board of Trustees. “We are honored that the Bezos Foundation has chosen to join our efforts in promoting democracy and democratic institutions and expand Youth and Government’s reach to thousands more Texas youth.”

About the Texas YMCA

The Texas State Alliance of YMCAs (“Texas YMCA”) represents the interests and concerns of 22 independent Ys across Texas serving more than 200 urban, suburban and rural communities. The Texas Y helps build capacity, collaboration and leadership in the areas of Youth Development, Healthy Living, and Social Responsibility and advocates on behalf of local Ys to promote our three areas of focus. Collectively, the Texas Y serves more than 1 million Texans, employs more than 15,000 staff and delivers more than $400 million of economic impact each year. The Texas Y is the largest provider of health and wellness, child care and water safety programs in the state. Through strategic partnerships with school districts, higher education institutions, hospitals, state and local government, we work diligently to achieve our mission of building healthy spirit, mind, and body. More information is available at https://texasallianceymcas.org/.

About Bezos Family Foundation 
The Bezos Family Foundation is an independent, nonprofit private Foundation founded by Mike and Jackie Bezos, who along with their family serve as the Foundation’s directors. Since 2001, the Foundation has partnered with remarkable organizations and individuals to transform how we prepare young people from prenatal through young adulthood to pursue their own path for success and meaningfully contribute to society. In addition to grantmaking, the Foundation runs three in-house programs: Bezos Scholars Program, Students Rebuild and Vroom. Learn more at bezosfamilyfoundation.org.

About YMCA of Greater Houston

Founded in 1886, the Y remains committed to the health of more than half a million people, helping families grow and thrive through programs and services at locations across Greater Houston. Strengthening the community is our cause. Together, we connect active, engaged Greater Houston Area residents to build a better us.