Four years ago, working strategically with school, community, and business partners, the Unified Family Services Systems (UFSS) and Common Ground Consulting created the Bedford County Youth Action Council (BCYAC) to empower diverse and passionate young people across Bedford County, Pennsylvania with an entrepreneurial spirit and the tools to involve themselves and their peers in the county’s civic and economic future.
The program always begins with a leadership academy designed to unleash the power of a core group of young people whose creative and leadership potential has been, until now, untapped by their communities. The program reaches beyond local school districts to engage a new generation of highly-motivated young people with skills that enable them to work across their differences, building a powerful network of future community, business, and political leaders.
In Bedford County, we work with passionate middle school students from five districts. Following the initial training, these young people function as a countywide youth council that meets on an on-going basis to discuss, plan, and implement a variety of activities that engage their peers in service to local communities, while also providing input into countywide youth development planning. UFSS also provides support and mini-grants to each school team to implement student-directed projects during the school year. Common ground also facilitates at least two more day-long gatherings of these students to further strengthen their leadership skills.
The academy-portion of the Bedford County Youth Action Council experience uses state-of-the-art training methodologies to help participants explore their unique leadership potential and set goals for their future. We establish group norms and behaviors and address diversity, peer-to-peer conflict, and issues of trust at the outset of the program. The academy provides the optimal environment for beginning an intensive leadership program—a freedom from the pressure to conform. Participants also meet with UFSS and Common Ground staff and trainers to discuss mutual goals, expectations, and responsibilities.
Throughout the year, participants will ...
- Develop a clear understanding of their unique leadership profile through participation in a set of highly-participatory group and individual activities;
- Create a personal mission statement;
- Develop new skills in public speaking, conflict resolution, goal-setting, time management, and peer education, among others;
- Learn to apply conflict resolution strategies and tools for effectively managing conflict in interpersonal settings and use strategies that promote mutual understanding and the peaceful resolution of differences;
- Increase awareness of personal culture and identity;
- Forge lasting bonds with each other, addressing areas of conflict stemming from stereotypes and negative socialization, and forming a diverse and cooperative network of young leaders.
- Brainstorm, plan, and implement specific community service projects during the 2010-2011 academic school year.