Seizing the Day: International Youth Day

International Youth Day is commemorated each August 12 by the United Nations as a day for “bringing youth issues to the attention of the international community and celebrating the potential of youth as partners in today’s global society.” In this spirit, JVA is highlighting one of the many inspiring changemaking organizations we work with that empowers and supports youth—the Colorado Workforce Development Council’s Colorado State Youth Council (SYC).

JVA Senior Trainer and Facilitator Sandra Harris Howard has worked closely with SYC to help its members plan for the Think Big Conference and to interview Denver area students about their perspectives on mental health concerns in schools. We asked her to share a bit about what inspires her about the organization.

1. Tell us about the projects you have worked on with the SYC. What is the group setting out to achieve?

“The Colorado State Youth Council (SYC) is a part of the Colorado Workforce Development Council (CWDC). These 13 youth leaders were selected from across the state with a mission to influence policy and practice at state and local levels in the development of pathways to economic success for businesses and young adults.

Colorado State Youth Council members at a session with JVA

“Each of the leaders was recruited from around the state to lead a movement of youth involved in state, local and community-based decision-making. They are influencing change to create better futures for young people.

“I had the opportunity to train and work with the 13 SYC young leaders as they prepared their strategy and youth engagement for the Think Big Conference this year. CWDC partnered with JVA to support the efforts of the SYC.

“The SYC leaders chose to conduct interviews with current and former high school students to get their perspective and have a better understanding of mental health issues and services for youth in Colorado. In this process, they learned about developing and implementing SMART [specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound] goals and developed an elevator pitch for their organization. Once they identified their goals, they launched into developing interview questions, coordinating efforts to conduct the interviews, and analyzing the data. The themes and recommendations that they will present at the Think Big Conference are geared towards improving young adult education and workforce outcomes for the state in the upcoming program year.”

2. What does the SYC do for youth, and how does that inspire you?

“The SYC models positive youth development with their strong individual and collective leadership skills and passion. Each of them is engaged in remarkable accomplishments such as completing a concurrent enrollment to complete high school with an associate degree or chairing the Centennial Youth Council.”

“They are leaders and spokespersons on youth advocacy, human trafficking issues, community and global change.”

3. What is the Think Big Conference?

“Think Big is a conference for young adults and young adult service providers in Colorado. Participants attend from communities across Colorado, and all play a role in helping young adults identify and overcome barriers, set education and career goals, and transition to adulthood and independence. The conference will take place in late August 2019.

“Hosts for the conference include the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s workforce development programs, the SYC, the Colorado Department of Education, the Colorado Department of Human Services and local workforce regions, with support from the Rocky Mountain Workforce Development Association.”

4. Who do you work with at SYC, and what can you share about their commitment to this cause? 

“The main adult contact with SYC has been Jenny Smith. She has worked with local foundations, public agencies, educators, community organizations, businesses and workforce centers to build an effective career pathway system with work-based learning opportunities for youth.

“Jenny’s passion and commitment with the youth leaders was an inspiring example of authentic relationship building. SYC leaders honored her, as she was instrumental in bringing youth to the table, expanding the SYC, and encouraging the young leaders to grow professionally and personally.”

5. What have you learned through working with SYC?

“My work with the SYC leaders confirmed my knowledge that youth are indeed leaders with influential voices for change. It was great to learn with and from them as they put their visions into action.”

6. If I would like to support SYC, is there something in particular the organization could really use?

“There is a need to support SYC with:

  • Travel costs, as they support leaders from across the state to attend the 2019 Think Big conference, and
  • Identification and recruitment of young leaders involved in their community and interested in making a difference!”

Would you or your business like to sponsor a State Youth Council member? Learn about the benefits for you and the student, and fill out an interest form, here