Youth on Boards is a pilot program designed to place high school students on community boards and commissions to learn about and participate in community decision making.

The health of democracy depends on the active involvement of youth in local decision making. As communities strengthen the role of youth, they are learning that young people can be bold civic innovators. Likewise, as youth develop social and political understanding and decision making skills, they contribute to community organizations and future outcomes. Youth who are active community participants are likely to extend their civic involvement to adulthood.

How Does the Program Work?

Starting in November 2016, 16 high school students from Roseville, White Bear Lake, Mahtomedi and North St. Paul began meeting bi-monthly with a facilitator to explore topics including:

  • Navigating their personal, social and cultural identifies and discovering their personal strengths and passions
  • Developing cultural competency
  • Framing issues and leadership development through a race equity lens
  • Understanding how systems, organizations and boards operate
  • Understanding youth voice as a strategy for systems change
  • Strengthening listening, speaking and presenting skills.

Students were invited to participate in the program based on recommendations from counselors and teachers. Priority was given to youth from underrepresented populations who are known for asking discerning questions, seeking to make positive changes in their communities, interested in how systems and organizations work, willing to state their convictions and equally willing to listen to other points of view.

Community and government organizations in suburban Ramsey County were encouraged to apply to host two young people each for a 15-month term. Ten organizations applied and eight were eventually chosen to participate. They included:

  • Suburban Ramsey Family Collaborative
  • Northeast Youth and Family Services
  • Shoreview YMCA
  • Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest
  • Ramsey County Parks and Recreation Commission
  • Ramsey County Children’s Mental Health Advisory Committee
  • Ramsey County Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Committee
  • Minnesota Civic Youth

The organizations agreed to participate in two youth-adult workshops designed to build relationships and common expectations about ways to work across generations.

Youth on Boards photo2In April 2017, each organization welcomed two young people to their board/commission. In addition to attending monthly board/commission meetings, the young people will continue to meet monthly as a cohort, guided by a facilitator, to talk about their experiences and discuss ways to increase their effectiveness as board members.

Why Do We Need Youth on Boards?

The benefits of having young people on boards are threefold: Boards benefit from the broad range of skills, backgrounds and new perspectives provided by young people. Young people learn about decision-making, using their voice for positive change, community awareness and connectedness and local decision-making. They also gain a sense of their individual strengths and how to use those strengths in different settings. Communities are enriched by young people who value their own potential and become involved in decision-making processes.

To learn more about this pilot or future Youth on Board opportunities, please contact Amy Anderson at amy@mncivicyouth.org.