My first work with the federal government was in 1997 when I joined AmeriCorps in Lincoln, Nebraska. After that I worked in two other AmeriCorps programs and subcontracted with a national training organization for the Corporation for National Service. When I worked at the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction I was in the US Department of Education-funded Title 5 program office. Over the last year I’ve been working with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention-funded Coordinated School Health Program in Washington State. All along I have worked as a private contractor and nonprofit organization executive director, providing training and technical assistance directly to dozens of federally-funded education, AmeriCorps, Learn and Serve, and other federally-funded efforts around the country. Needless to say, I am invested in the idea that the federal government has a role in engaging and promoting Youth Voice throughout the U.S.
Today I had the privilege of listening to Washington State Health Officer Dr. Maxine Hayes
discuss the central role of women in public health. She spoke a great deal about the role of the federal government in guiding public health practice nationally, and it inspired me to consider my belief and advocacy a little more. Here is what I think about the federal government’s responsibility in engaging, promoting and sustaining Youth Voice throughout our community. I credit Dr. Hayes for inspiring and directing parts of the following.
We need the federal government to create a cohesive Youth Voice agenda that centers on a unified federal strategy that addresses the needs of young people today. It should be based on what we already know through existing data and practice focused on youth voice, youth involvement
and youth engagement
. Currently policy addressing children and youth is fragmented and spread out across the federal governement. Because of that our Youth Voice strategies are, too.
The federal government needs to invovle states in figuring out the structures needed to support and sustain them in involving young people. The plan should address young people holistically throughout the communities they live in. The most priority should be given to engaging young people who are historically disengaged throughout our society, including low-income youth and young people of color. Additionally the federal government should create some national performance measures for Youth Voice
. Let’s use data we already have and measure Youth Voice in every program, every town, every state and answer questions like:
- Who are the young people in our program/town or state?
- What do I know about those young people?
- What have those young people told me indirectly? Directly?
- What ways does our community engage their voices?
- What issues are these young people addressing?
- What are the disparaties they face in Youth Voice?
- What resources does our program/town/state have to address those disparities?
We must embrace Youth Voice from all parts of our society. My experience has shown me that the federal government can provide essential leadership in that effort. The President’s office should take leadership, but any agency should step up. “Yes we can.”