State Municipal League Youth Summits
In March 2010, more than 400 youth who serve on local youth advisory commissions (YACs), councils, boards and committees in California attended the 2010 "YAC Attack." This one-day conference brought together teens and adult advisors for 32 mostly youth-led sessions on topics such as youth in government, health and wellness, special event planning, and gang task forces. The biennial meeting is hosted by California Parks and Recreation Society District 4 in the Peninsula region south of San Francisco. The Institute for Local Government (ILG), which is the nonprofit research affiliate of the League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties, facilitated a session on "Getting Engaged in Your Community," which offered examples of youth participation in local decision-making and featured a discussion of the factors that make youth commissions and councils effective.
ILG also recently hosted a web dialogue for Youth Commission members and staff on "Crossing Boundaries: Stories and Strategies to Help Youth Commissions with Local Policy Advocacy and Engaging Non-Commission Youth." As part of its Collaborative Governance Initiative, ILG spoke with more than 60 city and county staff, youth commissioners, youth commission staff, and nonprofit organizations. The dialogue focused on effective ways that youth commissions can make their voices heard to impact public policy and how youth commissions can recruit more young people to participate in their efforts.
The Florida League of Cities (FLC) recently sponsored its first-ever Municipal Brain Bowl competition for teams of Tallahassee middle and high school students. The competition was held in conjunction with Florida Cities Government Week in October, and tested students on their knowledge of local government. Questions were taken from FLC's My City: I'm Part of It, I'm Proud of It educational booklet, which is the official publication of Florida City Government Week. The competition was designed to engage Florida students in learning about the responsibilities of municipal governments and how they operate.
In 2007, the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns (IACT) held its first-ever Indiana Youth Leadership Conference for youth ages 13 to 18. The day and a half conference on "Preparing Future Leaders...Today" gave youth an opportunity to attend workshops on leadership and life skills training and to meet other young leaders and local elected officials from their state. IACT partnered with the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute and other corporate sponsors to support the event, and the New Haven, Ind., Mayor's Youth Advisory Council, with assistance from the Indianapolis and Kendallville Youth Councils, planned and organized the event.
Approximately 275 youth from 30 cities and towns attended. In addition to the workshops, the youth participants were able to visit the Indiana Statehouse and meet with their state legislators. The youth leadership conference also presented an opportunity to recognize winners of an IACT essay contest on "What does leadership mean to you and how have you demonstrated leadership in your community?" IACT also sponsors an annual "If I Were Mayor..." essay contest in which nearly 3,000 sixth grade students from 81 cities and towns participate to win a $250 savings bond and other prizes.
Beginning in March 2008, the Mississippi Municipal League began organizing an annual Statewide Youth Leadership Summit for more than 500 high school students from cities and towns across Mississippi. Recent summits have been held at local universities and have included participation by local officials and youth throughout the state. Youth councils in Hattiesburg, Cleveland, and Horn Lake, have hosted the event. Underscoring the value of building relationships across state municipal leagues on youth and family issues, MML staff visited the Texas Municipal League's Youth Advisory Commission Summit in 2006 and gained a wealth of knowledge that helped them plan this first MML Youth Summit.
Highlights of past Summits have included a keynote speech by Grammy Award winner Brandy, a native of McComb, Miss., as well as sessions on childhood obesity, leadership, volunteering and community service, youth councils in action, mobile technology, urban development, bullying prevention, mentoring, and financial aid for college. Attendees also participate in service projects such as donating books for young children and toiletries to a local homeless shelter, and volunteering at local food pantries.
Corporate and university partners and an active MML Youth Committee help make the event possible. Twenty-one mayors, councilmembers, city managers and city staff representing northern, central and southern districts of Mississippi participate in the league's Youth Committee.
The North Carolina League of Municipalities (NCLM) Foundation provided funding for NCLM's first Youth Summit held in 2005. Approximately 150 youth in grades 9-12 from throughout North Carolina attend this one-day, annual event, which aims to educate, engage and energize today's students who are tomorrow's leaders.
For more than 11 years, the Texas Municipal League has sponsored a Texas Youth Advisory Commission Summit in partnership with local youth commissions. The two-day Summit provides an opportunity for cities, schools, and community youth groups to share the experiences of their programs and the positive impact that the programs have had locally. Local leaders from cities that do not already have a youth leadership group are also encouraged to attend to learn the basics of creating a youth advisory council and make connections with cities that have successful programs.
More than 300 youth typically attend, with recent summits held in Killeen, Lake Jackson and Austin. The summit in Austin enabled youth leaders to visit the Texas State Capitol and learn about the state legislative process and key policy issues affecting Texas cities and towns. The 2012 Summit will be held in Garland, Texas, with a $50 registration fee and opportunities to apply for workshop tuition scholarships for small cities. Check out the great YAC Summit website at http://www.yacsummit.org/.