REAL TALK from Central Indiana Youth …And We Listened

“We must view young people not as empty bottles to be filled but as candles to be lit.” Robert H. Shaffer

This quote by Robert Shaffer could not be more correct, especially in light of this past weekend’s wonderful turnout for our Real Talk Youth Roundtable Event. We had over 20 youth come spend their Saturday afternoon with us here at the United Way building; brainstorming the issues, identifying resources, and sharing ideas for solutions. Youth from nearly every district in Indianapolis, as well as many from the surrounding counties, got a chance to voice their opinions about the issues facing their generation…and boy did we listen!

The morning started off with introductions, an icebreaker activity, an overview of MCCOY’s role in the community, and our vision for the role young people can play in what we do through involvement in our Youth Advocacy Council- a group that is newly formed and actively recruiting. After brainstorming the issues, significant time was taken to thoughtfully narrow down these issues into categories for breakout discussion. The top three issues youth felt needed attention were: Education, Youth Violence, and the Economy. Youth then broke out into groups of their choosing dependent on the issue they wanted to discuss. A productive discussion in these groups ensued while youth grubbed on burritos so generously donated by Chipotle. When coming back together for debriefing, these young people provided an overview of their small group discussion and worked together with MCCOY staff to devise an action plan. Pictures and a raffle drawing followed to end the day on an exciting note.

When the folks here at MCCOY learned of President Obama’s call-out for Youth Roundtables around the country, we jumped at the chance to engage an audience in which we have longed to reach. We were even more excited when we received word that White House Representative and Indiana Director of USDA Rural Development, Philip Lehmkuhler would attend our event.

Long talks of creating a Youth Advocacy Council definitely fueled the fire for MCCOY to host this event to hear what young people have to say about the issues. What a perfect opportunity for us to get in the business of engaging youth as much as we engage the people that work with youth! I am honored to have been a part of the planning of this process, and a special thanks to our White House Rep, Philip Lehmkuhler, our Executive Director, John Brandon, Our Public Policy & Advocacy Director, Mindi Goodpaster, our MCCOY student board member, Vincent Holloway, our MCCOY staff members and other volunteers who came to help, as well as all of the caring adults who came to listen… for all of their contributions to making this event a success. But the biggest shout out of all goes to all of the wonderful young people who participated in this event. You all are amazing, great examples of candles lighting a bright future!

For more info on being a part of MCCOY’s Youth Advocacy Council, please contact myself ([email protected]) or Mindi Goodpaster ([email protected]) .

To learn more about the President’s plan, please visit