In 1919, a group of concerned citizens gathered to develop a plan to create opportunities for young men to grow in character, leadership, and citizenship. The organization this group founded was known as The State Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) of Georgia. The organization found much success in communities all across the state and in 1929, started programs for young women as well. The mission has always been developing youth with a specific emphasis of character, leadership, and citizenship. The method, however, has changed many times with the needs of communities over the years.
Looking back through historic records and photos, there is no doubt that the commitment to build teens into servant leaders for their communities is ever present. Some photos and records note the organization acted as a convener of competition between high school sports teams—a role now facilitated by the Georgia High School Association. Others record that our organization, even in the early 1930s, was committed to serving all of the youth of Georgia as there were programs all over the state serving in African-American schools and communities. To that end, a conversation with a former staff member, who joined the organization in the 1950s, confirmed that our organization was the first youth serving organization to voluntarily integrate its programs.
In 1946, our most notable program, Youth Assembly, was launched. The goal was to facilitate an experience where high school students could experience state government first hand by participating in a model state legislature—in the State Capitol no less. This historic program has served tens of thousands of Georgia’s youth since that time—and continues to do so with much success.
In the 1990s, schools went through a big focus on “Character Counts” and our programs were ready to meet the need as character development was core to who we were. In the early 2000’s, schools started changing, in part because of the No Child Left Behind Act, and extracurricular activities and Clubs were giving way to more academic and standards focused programs.
In 2014, the Georgia Center for Civic Engagement was founded as a program of the State YMCA of Georgia to house our civics education efforts. Its growth led to its becoming a separate nonprofit organization that was a strategic partner with the State YMCA of Georgia.
In 2020, the board of the State YMCA of Georgia made the decision to transfer all of its programs and remaining assets to the Georgia Center for Civic Engagement to continue serving the mission of youth development with a focus on character, leadership, and citizenship.