The goal of the Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) is to bridge the gap between youth and the leaders of today. The program also provides students from across the region the opportunity to learn about local and regional government, planning, civic engagement, promote careers in the public sector, and aid in their professional development.
During the first year of the program, students had the opportunity to hear from local and state elected officials from across the region. They visited unique locations, such as the Sacramento International Airport and the Pacific Coast Producer’s tomato processing plant and participated in thorough discussions regarding autonomous vehicles, environmental concerns, transportation, and economic development. Students also worked on a final project, modeled after the design-thinking process within SACOG’s Civic Lab, and identified a local issue in their community and determined a solution – with some students invited to present at their local city councils.
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 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.