All About Youth Councils
The following articles provide a general overview of the steps a Native youth group may use to form a youth council. There are also links to documents that contain a more detailed explanation of the process. The documents may be read online or downloaded and stored on a personal computer for quick access.
On September 11, 2014, UNITY conducted a live online webinar entitled "How to Build an Effective Youth Council." You may view the webinar transcript, view a PowerPoint presentation and/or listen to the webinar audio by visiting THIS PAGE on the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Online University website.
Tribes, schools, and community organizations can reap benefits by tapping the creative, enthusiastic, and insightful ideas and voices of young people. This Webinar explores the powerful benefits of building an effective youth council by engaging and empowering youth voices within your community. The nuts and bolts of how to set up a UNITY youth council are examined.
The National UNITY Council (NUC) was established in 1992 to serve as the representative arm of the UNITY Network. It is made up of a young man and young woman from each Affiliated Youth Council, who represent their respective youth councils on the NUC.
To learn more about the NUC's purposes and structure, refer to the attached Constitution and Bylaws of the National UNITY Council. The National UNITY Council Constitution was amended at the 2013 National UNITY Conference. This most recent version is attached.
WHAT IS A YOUTH COUNCIL?
Native American youth can make a difference, but first they must be organized and prepared for action. An effective way to accomplish this is through a youth council. A youth council represents a practical way of enabling youth to have a meaningful role in helping solve community problems. Types of youth councils include:
- Tribal Youth Councils
- Alaska Native Village Youth Councils
- Urban Youth Councils
- High School Indian Clubs
- College or University Native American Associations
- A Church-sponsored Youth Group
- An Independent Youth Group
Keep in mind that youth councils are just as diverse as Native America itself. Each youth council maintains its own identity and is built upon the needs and values of that particular community.
By being involved with a youth council, young Native Americans can use their combined talents and energy to address major concerns facing them today. Youth design and promote their own programs to fit their needs.
Young people who are involved with youth councils learn to accept responsibility. They grow through achievement and in the knowledge that they are making a real contribution to their community and to Native America.
What does a Youth Council do?
Each youth council determines its activities based on its own needs. Needs can be identified through discussions with members, interviews, surveys, and other types of research. Once needs are determined, youth councils develop their own action plan to implement their activities.
As affiliates of the UNITY Network, youth councils are expected to conduct activities in community service, cultural heritage, environment, and healthy lifestyles.
For example, UNITY Network affiliated youth councils have:
- volunteered to help the elderly or handicapped
- presented workshops on leadership, peer pressure and school participation
- established a college scholarship
- sponsored youth camps and conferences
- started own business
- sponsored food and clothing drives
- conducted bone marrow tissue typing drive
- sponsored health forums and health career day
- raised money for an infant heart transplant
- purchased Christmas toys for less fortunate children
- sponsored trash clean up days
- participated in beading and craft classes
- sponsored alcohol and drug free dances or skate-a-thons
- raised money for a recreation center
- participated in a governor’s page program
The benefits youth gain from participating in a youth council depend on what each member puts into the council. If youth make the most of their opportunities they will:
- learn how to work with other young people
- build strong and lasting friendships
- develop greater self-esteem and self-confidence
- develop communication skills
- develop leadership skills
- develop organizational skills
- gain self-worth and inner-strength to battle negative peer pressure
- develop winning attitudes
- learn how to take responsibility for their actions
- contribute to making a difference in Native America
As a member of the UNITY Network, I
...accept spirituality as an important foundation for a healthy, balanced lifestyle;
...recognize that pride in my culture and preservation of my heritage give me strength and dignity;
...will be honest, understanding and respectful of the diversity and uniqueness of self, others and our environment;
...know the importance of refraining from the abuse of alcohol, tobacco and drugs to maintain physical and mental well-being in order to be a positive role model for present and future generations, and finally
...make a personal commitment to strive toward reaching my full potential.