As our Youth Advisory Council gears up for another year of programming and engagement, we’re taking some time to reflect on our purpose, as well as how we’ve adapted and shifted our programming to meet the current needs of youth.
As we all know, the world is constantly changing. Over the past few years, we’ve made a strategic move to become a more diverse and inclusive group of youth interested in community awareness, engagement, and change. We’ve created mission, vision, and values statements developed by our youth grantmakers and leaders, and we’re working hard to increase the scope and reach of our program. We’re certainly not perfect but each year, we’re making progress and striving to select members that contribute to the goals, mindset, and culture of our program.
We sifted through the data from the Youth Needs Assessment conducted every two years to determine not only our grantmaking focus, but our overall programmatic goals. Using this, our youth are hard at work developing a Youth Empowerment platform – a place to give youth a voice in the community, learn about community issues, and interact and engage in meaningful conversations with other youth. The goal is to empower youth to be changemakers, give them the tangible skills to make sound decisions, become critically aware of some of the issues their peers face, and provide them with platforms to be community advocates. Our first step in this direction was the Spark Tank Initiative that we launched in early 2017.
We also spent time reflecting on the launch of the 1991 philanthropic initiative, which launched youth philanthropy programs in Michigan. The GHACF YAC began with a challenge grant from the WK Kellogg Foundation to get youth engaged in philanthropy and community change. In Dr. Russ Mawby’s ‘Why Youth? Why Community Foundations?’ keynote address announcing the initiative, he explained that the Michigan Community Foundations’ Youth project aims to:
“teach them to be good stewards by giving them opportunities to make the hard decisions on wise giving. It will give them the opportunity to ask, to serve, and through serving, to lead. Tomorrow’s governors, mayors, chief executive officers, and executive directors will be trained through the Michigan Community Foundation Youth Project. Even more importantly, so will tomorrow’s Little League coaches, Big Sisters, Cub Scout leaders, Sunday school teachers, and community foundation trustees.”
We’re building the future leaders of our community, region, state, and beyond. However, at the core of our journey and what resonates most with us is:
“youth grow up to become people who work with youth. When we invest in the development of today’s young people, we are really investing in the development of the next generation, and the next, and the next. The ripples spread out from our investment – and where, they will end, we can never know.”
Over the next year, our goal is to continue to spread our investments and reach to even more youth in our community. Stay tuned for details on next project: Youth Are Creative. And in the meantime, follow them on Instagram.
2018 – 2019 YAC Members:
Charlie Parker, Treasurer
Ellen Stolarski, Chair
Chloe Weigel, Secretary
Benjamin Garretson, Vice-Chair
*denotes new member