First Class of Youth Leadership Academy Graduates
SACOG’s leadership development program opens eyes to service and advocacy
July 24, 2019: The first class of the Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) has officially graduated. On June 15, students, staff, and families and friends came together at the West Sacramento Community Center to see the students’ final presentations and celebrate the completion of the program.
The goal of the Youth Leadership Academy is to bridge the gap between youth and the policies being enacted today, and to create a space for them to learn how they can advocate for their concerns and communities. They also learned the process for influencing local, state, and federal representatives, and discovered possible careers in the public sector.
In early 2018, under the leadership of then board chair Jay Schenirer, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) board of directors discussed the missing connection with current regional planning and the youth who will be impacted by today’s policy decisions. After securing private funding, the SACOG board unanimously approved staff to launch the SACOG Youth Leadership Academy. SACOG partnered with the non-profit PRO Youth & Families to create and execute the program.
During the six months, the 29 students met once a month on Saturdays to participate in trainings that introduced some of SACOG’s key focus areas: transportation and land-use planning; affordable housing; relationships with local jurisdictions, state, and federal governments; environmental sustainability; and community outreach. They also participated in a design-thinking workshop that helped identify issues they are seeing in their communities and consider possible solutions.
The students met with state, federal, and local elected officials, advocates, local city staff, and SACOG staff. In addition to classroom style meetings, participants had special access and tours at Granite Quarry Park, Pacific Coast Producers tomato processing plant, and Sacramento International Airport.
Some students also got opportunities to address officials at the opening of the California Transportation Commission and at a reception for the commissioners, as well as at SACOG committees and the Folsom City Council.
The students were positive about the program, according to anonymous post-program survey comments.
“The [YLA] program makes you understand the complexity of the Sacramento region and the interaction between government, transportation, and planning (what would take years to learn on my own, I learned in six months). I can’t stress this enough, this program is so useful in deciding my future career.”
“SACOG YLA has exposed me to passionate students and dedicated leaders. I feel I have grown as an individual by being educated by experienced adults, but also from conversing with the diverse students of the greater Sacramento area.”
“I learned about the inner workings in government areas that I had no prior knowledge of. I also learned more about jobs available in local government and some behind the scenes aspects of various entities.”
“I gained a sense of community. I loved meeting different people from different schools and learning about the issues they face in their counties.”