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Youth at the Table
civic engagement | education | generational | leadership | mentors | politics | town hall meeting | youth
A summary of the idea, the needs it serves, and a description of a possible pilot program
The gap between the establishment and future leaders is an ever-pressing issue that often goes unaddressed in the public sphere or at schools. By introducing high school students to board service, Youth at the Table bridges the gap.
The project would facilitate the placement of high school students with demonstrated leadership potential on the boards of a range of decisionmaking bodies including foundations, school and hospital boards, neighborhood associations, and non-profits.
A pilot program would require a sample of participating decisionmaking boards as well as an initial pool of potential leaders drawn from a range of backgrounds and schools. Through careful matching, boards would grant full membership to students and provide a trained one-to-one mentor in the form of a current or past board member. This mentor would stay with the student throughout their tenure on the board and would require a long-term commitment to the organization and to the relationship from all involved. Incentives for student participation could be scholarship awards at the completion of the tenure, contributed to by board donation.
The program would be supported and managed by a staff and advisory board that includes recent program alumni. After the success of a number of pilot cases, the program could spread to more boards.
These ideals are integral to a successful project design
- developing citizenship and leadership in youth
- encouraging long-term commitment to community
- improving inter-generational communication and representation
- changing stereotypes
- inviting new and fresh perspectives to decisionmaking
Possible difficulties, pitfalls, and obstacles to consider
- finding a diverse pool interested students
- securing commitments from boards
- long-term operating costs and commitment
- accessibility, availability, and transportation issues involved with youth
Learn more about the idea, from genesis to dialogue
Youth at the Table originated in room 345 and was authored by Ryan Oliver, Paige Berry, Elizabeth Perry, and Sarah Coon. The program they described included a thorough list of potential participating boards including Heinz Endowments, Pittsburgh Public Schools, Pittsburgh League of Young Voters, League of Women Voters, the Urban League, the YMCA/YWCA, the Union Project, and a number of foundations.
Get to know these groups, organizations, projects, and authorities, their current and past activities, the possibility for consultation or partnership, and in-roads to collaboration.
These important questions are asked of each idea. Try your hand at answering them as a way to explore the idea and how to make it happen. Answers to these questions help to demonstrate the Idea's strength and potential for success.
- What level is the idea at? (Research, Planning, Fundraising, Advocacy, Deployment, other (explain))
- What is a reasonable next step/phase for the concept? How can investment move the idea forward?
- What other resources or opportunities are available or necessary to make the idea happen?
- What existing activities or organizations in Pittsburgh duplicate some or all of the program components? How can this idea compete with, complement, and/or learn from these other activities?
- Who should be included in this discussion? Does the concept call for outside consultation or assistance from other organizations?
- How should the idea be promoted?
- How should project success be measured?
- What questions should be asked of a proposal for this project?
These questions address some of the anticipated programmatic concerns that come with administering small projects. Consider them test questions for model projects-- responses should be incorporated into the project's design.
- What boards will host Youth at the Table?
- How will youth leaders be selected?
- How will the program negotiate students’ other responsibilities?
- How long will youth board terms last?
- What responsibility will the program have to protecting the student and the host board?
- How will the scholarship be funded? How many youth board members will receive it?
- How will the program be managed and administered?