Get Excited!

By Danielle Guerin
Last Monday, our Youth Advocacy Council attended the Children…Our Best Investment Statehouse Conference. The youth spent the day touring the statehouse and talking to representatives about the issues they deemed to be important.  They were able to sit in the gallery and watch the House and Senate in session, as well. As this was my first time chaperoning anything, it was really cool to see the excitement and wonder on their faces as they went through the day.
It made me think of the last time I felt that way. The last time I felt pure joy from the activities of my day. And I couldn’t remember other then when I was a child. Sure there are times where I am enjoying my time, whether it be volunteering at the Indianapolis Animal Care and Control or leading a program for Girls,Inc but I don’t remember ever being that excited. I began to wonder if I would ever feel that sense of excitement as I once did, as a child, but I hoped so.
So I decided to challenge myself, to find the little bits of happiness in everything that I do from now on. It’ll be hard, because no one enjoys waking up at 5:45 am to go to the gym but it will be worth it. I also challenge you all to find joy in everything you do and experience for the next month. It will enrich your life in so many ways.
I’m so glad I was able to witness the expressions of the YAC members because it reminded me why we do what we do. Giving youth the opportunity to experience things they might not ever experience. It was great to be reminded of that after a long day at the conference. Now, I look at this picture and I strive to create these types of opportunities for more youth.
A few days after the conference, a video went viral of a little girl getting excited about trains and it made me smile. So, how about we all take a lesson from Madeleine and get excited. 

Youth Advocacy Council Update

These last few months have been a whirlwind for the YAC, from Real Talk Remix to listening sessions with the IPS School Board. Through all these experiences, the youth have decided on issues that they want to focus on in the coming year:
  •          Bullying
  •          Sexual Abuse
  •          Hunger
  •          Own Your Future
  •          Education Reform 

The youth will take these topics and a few more and present them at the ASC-Me Conference (Advocating, Skill building  Creating Solutions) on April 27. This day-long event will be open to youth all over the city.  The YAC will host breakout sessions on these important issues.  
These next few months will be busy as the youth try to learn as much as possible as they can about these issues. The youth will spend many hours designing a curriculum that will be easily understood by middle school and high school youth. They will develop activities that will help participants build skills in those areas and develop action steps.
If you think that this sounds like a lot, it is. If you would like to help in any way or know of a youth who would want to facilitate, please let me know. The YAC and us are really excited for this conference and are excited to see all of this year’s work come together.

Danielle Guerin

Written by: Danielle Guerin, AmeriCorps VISTA
“When I think about education, I feel it’s important that an individual grabs this opportunity. If not, I believe that they will not be prepared for the world around them. Education is a must in a world that is changing every day.
That is one of the most poignant quotes that came out of Real Talk Remix, a youth roundtable discussion, which was held this past October. The event was held in partnership with WFYI’s American Graduate program. 16 youth, from 5thto 12th grade, came together to talk about education and what needed to be changed.
The youth came up with their  three biggest issues in school:
  1. Structure of the education system
  2. Teacher-student communication
  3. Bullying and safety in schools

Attendees of Real Talk Remix had many suggestions for the improvement of their education experience. From concerns with student/teacher/counselor relationships, to student-student bullying issues to the overall structure of curriculum of schools, these youth believe we can do better. The youth who attended the event left with new ideas about what they could do to make their schools better. MCCOY came up with the following next steps:
•The Youth Advocacy Council will incorporate what they heard from peers into their working groups on education reform and bullying. They will advocate on these issues in the coming year through tracking legislation on the topics in the state legislature and hosting “listening sessions” for youth to voice their concerns on the issues of bullying and education reform.
MCCOY will incorporate youth feedback into our 2013 Legislative Prioritiesof education, bullying, and youth violence. Focusing on the following priorities:
  • Embrace a comprehensive evidence-based approach to prevent all forms of peer aggression, including bullying, gangs, dating violence and suicide that provide resources and training to all school personnel and that foster school environments and interactions that promote positive social skill development
  • Re-engage disconnected youth and adults in education and career-focused opportunities

•If you’d like access to the full Real Talk Remix agenda and format to host your own Real Talk, email Danielle Guerin.
To view the full report, go here

They Say We Stand For Nothing and There’s No Way We Ever Could

The past month I have been so involved in democracy that I dream about bills and manage to turn every conversation into one about legislation. It’s annoying and yet I’m hooked. I soak it all up. Yesterday I attended COBI—Children…Our Best Investment, which is a day where students can hear speakers talk about current issues, form messages for their legislators, have lunch with Senators and Representatives, and go to the Statehouse for tours and conversations with legislators. I was so impressed to see young people soaking it up just like I do.

They asked panelists tough questions that forced them to get to the heart of the issues. When legislators came to lunch, they brought up problems in education that they are facing and asked how the current bills are going to address the issues. If answers from panelists or legislators were not up to snuff, they said, “But what about this…” Everything from gang activity in schools, to undocumented immigrants getting a college education, to how far schools can go in suspending and expelling students, to restructuring the Indianapolis Public School system were brought up and spoken about not only with passion, but with poise, knowledge, and confidence.

At the Statehouse later in the day I saw students talking with their legislators, grilling legislative assistants about how they got their jobs and what degree was needed, and introducing themselves as “Future Senator So-and-So” and “Future Governor”.

If this is the face of Indiana’s future, we are in good hands. These high school students want to know the answers. They ask good questions. They’re not interested in simply identifying a problem; they’re interested in coming up with solutions and making them happen. I’m confident that even in a highly partisan political climate that is discouraging many, these students will keep their drive and optimism and become great leaders.

One day our generation is gonna rule the population, so stop Waiting on the World to Change. These youth did.

Interested in having your voice heard? Join MCCOY’s Youth Advocacy Council.
Want to stay updated on the legislative session and other advocacy updates? Follow MCCOY_Advocacy on Twitter.


I Have a Dream…

…that one day I will be a senator or representative deftly writing policy, thoughtfully listening to my constituents, and boldly crossing party lines to do what is best for the state of Indiana or even the United States.  But right now, I am a nervous intern whose legs shake and palms sweat as I stand in front of committee members giving testimony on a bill. Obviously, I have a ways to go.
Just two short weeks into my time here at MCCOY, I was given the opportunity to take the lead on presenting testimony on behalf of MCCOY. While I was excited and prepared–I had typed out my talking points–I was also intimidated by the company I was in. Seasoned lobbyists and veteran senators surrounded me as I stood and began, “Good evening Chairman Kruse and committee members” (I don’t think it hurt that I mentioned that I was a student. Perhaps that explained the quiver in my voice.)

However, as I began to speak, I gained my confidence. I looked up from my paper and I met the eyes of Senators Kruse and Schneider, who may or may not have been listening, but who were watching me attentively. I made my points, I thanked them, and I walked to my seat, confident that I had done my best to participate in the legislative process.

I know the camera on my phone is blurry—it’s not a smart phone—but this is what it looks like waiting to give testimony.

February is Youth Leadership Month, so as January comes to a close, start thinking of ways to encourage the young people you work with to get involved in the legislative process. Or if you are a young person reading this, go let your voice be heard! YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Own your power. There is still much to be done in the 2012 Legislative Session.

Interested in being kept up to date on bills that affect youth? Follow MCCOY_Advocacy on Twitter.
Want to own your power? Join the Youth Advocacy Council.

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