Mayor Don Wesely and officials of Leadership Lincoln, Inc. today announced the establishment of a Youth in Action Center, a comprehensive model program to address youth development issues.
"Our young people have many talents, and they have the desire to be involved in their community," Mayor Wesely said. "The Youth in Action Center will help them develop the skills they need to be effective leaders today. By providing this training now, we are also building a pool of future decision-makers who are diverse, knowledgeable and committed to their communities."
The Youth in Action Center will be housed at Leadership Lincoln, a community leadership development organization. Leadership Lincoln celebrates its fifteenth anniversary this year and has recently moved to new offices at Old City Hall, 9th and "O" Streets. The organization currently has three programs: the Fellows program, a year-long series of monthly seminars and retreats; the Executive Series, a three-month program for CEOs new to Lincoln or to their positions; and Youth Leadership Lincoln, sponsored by the Knights of AkSarBen, which provides leadership training to high school students beginning with their sophomore year.
"Youth Leadership Lincoln has been very successful, but we can only take one of ever six students who apply," said Deane Finnegan, Executive Director of Leadership Lincoln. "The Youth in Action Center will complement our current program by providing leadership development at no fee for many more students. This program is the first of its kind in the nation, and we appreciate the organizations that have made the Center possible."
The Woods Charitable Fund has provided $92,500 for the new program, and the joint budget committee of Lincoln and Lancaster County has allocated $20,000. Leadership Lincoln has also received $15,000 from the Lincoln Community Foundation and $7,500 from the United Way of Lincoln/Lancaster County for the program. The Center will replace and expand on the former Youth Advisory Council of the Consortium for Children and Youth.
"This financial support shows how much this community values and believes in our young people," Mayor Wesely said. "Once again, Lincoln is on the cutting edge in an important area, as other communities look to Lincoln as a model for their own youth development efforts."
The Youth in Action Center will focus on students in the tenth and eleventh grades in Lincoln's public and private schools. Peter Ferguson, the Center's coordinator, has been with Leadership Lincoln since August. He said the program hopes to reach 200 students its first year and will seek young people from all parts of the community, all socio-economic background and all races and ethnic groups.
"As these diverse teens come together to learn about leadership, they will also be learning about each other and about the importance of respect," Ferguson said. "The Center can be a tool to break down some of the barriers in our community."
Participants will attend the Youth Leadership Institute, four workshops on such issues as trusteeship, diversity, ethics, facilitation, communication and teamwork. After completing the workshops and a service learning project, the students will be eligible to participate in other Youth in Action Center programs, which include include a clearinghouse to match young people with community agencies, boards and committees. Other projects may include a youth program on public access television, a "quick action" team of volunteers to help with short-term projects, a mentoring group, a youth advisory committee and coordination of the Anti-defamation Leagues's peer-to-peer program.
The Lincoln Public Schools currently provides two teachers as in-kind support to Youth Leadership Lincoln. The teachers will assist Leadership Lincoln with curriculum development for the Center. Facilitators for the Youth Leadership Institute will include teams of trained adult and youth volunteers.
During the first year of the project, the volunteers will be graduates of Leadership Lincoln's three existing programs. Leadership Lincoln will also develop a training component to recruit additional adult volunteers, with a special emphasis on recruiting volunteers from the minority communities. The adult training will be free.
Applications for the Youth in Action Center will be sent to all Lincoln high schools soon. Adults interested in volunteering can contact Leadership Lincoln at 441-4662.