Empowering youth’s voices

Morris F. White III, County Extension Director, Vance County
Aug. 11, 2013 @ 10:14 AM


North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, a partnership between N.C. State University and N.C. A&T State University reaches millions of North Carolina citizens each year through local centers in the state’s 100 counties and with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Each county has an advisory leadership council that works alongside each local center to help build pathways to benefit all North Carolinians through N.C. Cooperative Extension Service programs.

The Vance County Cooperative Extension Advisory Leadership Council creates opportunities for youth civic engagement by involving young people on the advisory leadership council. Linda K. Terry serves as the Vance County ALC chair with 22 stake-holders that are reflective of the demographics of the community and two youth members, Samaria Carter and Lauren Edwards. Extension research has shown that organizations that orient youth with programming create strong, caring relationships between young people and adults, and to ensure meaningful involvement of young people in all aspects of an organization’s structure, decision-making, and programs. The Vance County Cooperative Extension Advisory Leadership Council serves in the following roles:

• Advocates with government and community leaders

• Markets program impacts to stake-holders

• Promotes development of resources

• Ensures programming meets local needs

• Serves as a liaison between County Advisory Councils and State Administrators

Young people don’t have to wait until they’re adults to become active citizens. The University of Tennessee Extension service provided the following seven steps on how to properly include youth on community boards.

1.Assess the readiness of the board by ensuring that board members are willing to have flexible meeting times, and that they have the attitude of working with, and not for, youth.

2.Prepare the board for youth members by working together to create a vision for what can be accomplished with youth members.  This can be done by discussing the positive qualities of youth.

3.Create a youth position on the board through By-Laws or other operations procedures and select the youth members in the same method that adults are selected.

4.Consider consulting an attorney to determine how the board would handle youth membership in the event that confidential or matters requiring adult votes arise. 

5.Recruit youth for the vacancies by promoting the opportunity locally at schools, other youth organizations, media outlets, and through the groups’ adult membership and/or stake-holders.

6.Select both adult and youth candidates by using a process that includes interviews, references, and represents diversity and a desire to advocate and provide a confident voice.

7.Finally, using a strategic planning process, matched board responsibilities with skills of all individuals, commonly called a personal skills inventory or asset map.

For more information about programs offered at the Vance County Cooperative Extension center or the Vance County ALC, please stop by our center located at 305 Young Street, Henderson, or we can be reached at (252) 438-8188.