By Kacey Reeves, TX

The idea that the YMCA Youth and Government program solely prepares students for the political world is a common misconception. Although delegates do learn about the political process and become more aware of pressing issues, the core values and skills learned in the program hold relevance for all vocations.

Michael George, a freelance photographer and self-titled adventurer, is an alumnus of the Florida YIG program. George, who served as the Florida Speaker of the House in 2007, graduated from New York University in 2011 with degrees in photography and psychology. He currently runs his own business, Michael George Photography, and has published work in several popular magazines, including Runner’s World and Popular Mechanics.

One of his recent projects, Portrait of a Pilgrim, documents his journey on the Camino de Santiago. The Camino, an ancient highway that spans from France to Spain, used to attract religious pilgrims but now appeals to people of all backgrounds. National Geographic has procured the story and will be releasing it in an upcoming issue this fall.

George is grateful for his years with Youth in Government and CONA as they allowed him to perfect his public speaking, an art he uses when approaching clients and presenting his work. “So much of YIG is sharing ideas… and being able to articulate them,” George said.

Adam Faulkner, a Texas YAG alumnus who served as the 2010 Texas Secretary of State, plans to graduate this December from the University of Texas with a degree in computer science. Faulkner is currently interning as a software engineer for Dropbox, a company based out of San Francisco. He is developing a search feature that is scheduled to be unveiled to private businesses this August. In the past, Faulkner has interned for Facebook, working with the Ads and Payments team. Faulkner also credits his YAG years for instilling in him relevant communication skills. “A lot of what software engineering is [involves] taking apart people’s ideas in way that doesn’t tear them down.”