The goal of the Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) is to bridge the gap between today’s youth and local leaders. This program provides students from across the region the opportunity to learn about local and regional government, planning, civic engagement, professional development, and careers in the public sector. Participants will be able to meet and talk to elected officials, non-profit leaders, community activists and organizers, and more. Students will learn how communities are shaped by people, policies, and social changes and how to be involved with the many systems that shape their communities. YLA aims to provide students with helpful knowledge and skills that are a part of the ongoing process of decision making and the connection to local organizations and community members that bring much needed change.
The YLA launched in early 2018, under the leadership of then board chair Jay Schenirer, after the SACOG board of directors discussed the missing connection between current regional planning and the impacted youth of 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.
The YLA has had two successful years and has connected over 80 students from across the region. We have gone through various workshops with different speakers, from Congress representatives to hands on planning workshops with urban planners, mock city councils, and more. Students have gained a better understanding of how decisions are made in their cities, who they can go to when they want to change something, and an overall better understanding of the planning field and public sector. Students leave with a new network of peers, staff, and leaders who are ready to continue their development beyond the program.