Youth & Government

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




Shannon Gowen, VP, Marketing & Communications | 913-292-2111      

SAN ANTONIO, TX (APRIL 5, 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 supporting 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 or non-existent or who 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. Last year in San Antonio, 179 teens learned leadership skills through the Y’s Youth and Government program, and 145 students advanced to the Annual State Conference, where 5 Teens advanced to represent San Antonio at the National Conference. Many of the students had the opportunity to travel for the first time and plan to pursue a career in public service.

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, amplifying youth voices and strengthening youth civic health.

The Bezos Family Foundation, launched in 2000, is focused on a world where 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 Angelica Torres, YMCA Teen Program Director. “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 allows them 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 to expand action civics education to more young people. In today’s world, fostering youth actions, self-efficacy, and a deeper understanding of our democratic roles 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 YMCA of Greater San Antonio

The Y is one of the nation's leading nonprofits, strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. For 148 years, the YMCA of Greater San Antonio has worked to build a stronger community. With its doors open to all, the Y listens and responds to the community's most critical social needs, ensuring everyone can learn, grow, and thrive, regardless of age, income, ability, ethnicity, or faith. To learn more, visit .

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 it 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, and state and local government, we work diligently to achieve our mission of building a healthy spirit, mind, and body. More information is available at

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