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Section 8. Including Youth on Your Board, Commission, or Committee

What do we mean by including youth on your board or committee?

___Including youth on boards, commissions, or committees means recruiting young people to serve as members or representatives on those bodies

___A Board of Directors is the formal governing body of almost all incorporated (and some unincorporated) non-profit organizations, initiatives, or institutions, and many public bodies as well

___A committee is a part of a larger organization or initiative, is formed to deal with a specific issue or area of functioning, or a freestanding body usually meant to address or oppose a particular issue

___A commission is a government body that has charge of a particular area of functioning, or a group appointed by government to study or oversee an event or issue

___Youth may be included on boards, commissions, or committees with full membership, with limited membership, in an advisory capacity, or as members of board committees, but not the full board

Why include youth on boards, committees, and other similar bodies?

___Your board can gain insight into the youth perspective on issues and on its actions

___Youth can bring new and creative ideas

___Youth can inject new life into your board

___Board membership can make youth more conscious of and knowledgeable about community issues and the larger factors that affect their – and others’ – lives

___Youth board membership makes your group more inclusive and participatory

___Having teen board members is more likely to convince community youth to participate in your organization or support your positions

___By including youth on your board, you’re making a statement to the community about their importance and about their ability to contribute

___As a result of their interactions with youth board members, adults on the board may develop more positive attitudes toward young people

___You can increase the credibility of your group, both among youth and in the community in general, by acting on your principles

___If you’re a grassroots organization or initiative, having a diverse board that includes youth membership is likely to be consistent with your philosophy

___You’re encouraging youth leadership and developing the next generation of community leaders

Challenges to including youth on boards:

___Youth may need help with meeting skills

___Most youth simply don’t have the background of knowledge and experience that most adult board members do

___Young people may be hesitant about speaking out, and may need lots of encouragement before they’re comfortable enough to feel that their opinions are valued

___Adolescents – even those that are generally quite mature – can be impulsive

___Incorporating youth members takes time

___Adult board members may have to change their assumptions about what youth are capable of

___While youths may be better advocates for the organization or initiative with other youth, they may have less credibility in the community with adults, especially those who are more conservative

When is a good time to add youth members or representatives?

___When you’re starting a new organization or initiative, especially – but not limited to – one that addresses youth and youth issues

___When youth are not responding well to a program or initiative aimed at them

___When youth board members are a condition of funding

___When you need the youth perspective

___When you want to demonstrate – to youth, to the community, and/or to your board – that you believe in the abilities of youth to take responsibility if they’re given the opportunity

___When you want to empower a youth constituency

___When you want to prepare youth to take community leadership positions

___When members of the board request it

Who should be involved in including youth on boards and committees?

___Educational efforts

  • Local and state school boards
  • Colleges and universities
  • Private, alternative, and charter schools
  • Adult literacy programs (many serve out-of-school youth)

___Youth-oriented or youth-focused efforts

  • Peer counseling and peer tutoring programs
  • Recreational programs (teen centers, skate parks, sports leagues and programs)
  • Prevention programs targeting risk behaviors (i.e., delinquency, violence, tobacco and substance use, suicide, teen pregnancy and STI prevention efforts)
  • Service providers to homeless and other at-risk youth
  • Service learning and youth community service programs

___Community or larger-focused efforts that include youth as one of several targets or constituencies

  • Community building efforts or organizations
  • Health promotion or healthy community initiatives
  • Health providers – hospitals, clinics, mental health centers
  • Anti-poverty, anti-crime, or similar broad efforts
  • Human service organizations
  • State and local government agencies concerned with youth.  (Legal restrictions may limit youth to a representative or advisory role on these boards.)
  • Employment boards

Young people who might be recruited as board members

___Those who are already active in sports, scouting, church groups, etc.

___Youth with first-hand knowledge of the issues and population you’re concerned with

  • Current or former gang members
  • Runaways or emancipated minors who live or have lived on the street
  • Youth who’ve been involved with the courts
  • Youth with direct or close secondhand (through relatives or close friends) experience of the issue the organization deals with or with street life in general
  • Successful graduates of substance abuse programs
  • Youth who have, or are working to, overcome academic difficulties or learning disabilities
  • Youth who have been abused or have struggled with dysfunctional family situations
  • Youth currently or formerly in foster care
  • Adoptees
  • Youth whose families have been homeless
  • Recipients of your services, participants in your program, or potential beneficiaries of your initiative

___Youth who want to be involved, and/or who volunteer

___Youth with real leadership potential, including some who might be seen as “troublemakers”

How do you engage youth on boards and committees?

___Decide whether you want youth members or representatives on your board

___Determine the niche you expect the young member(s) to fill

___Assess the readiness of your board to incorporate youth members

___Prepare as a board to accept youth members

___Recruit youth board members

___Train new youth board members

___Support youth board members

___Employ youth board members

___Monitor and evaluate the experience

___Incorporate what you’ve learned from evaluation, and continue to include youth on your board