Mayor Michael D. Morrison

The Waco Youth Summit

Prior to traveling to the Presidents. Summit on America. s Future, Waco. s delegates conducted a series of public meetings to identify service gaps in the five America. s Promise resource areas. The delegates recognized that improvements in each of the areas depended as much on the identification of community assets as it did on the identification of community problems.

In Philadelphia, Waco. s summit team, led by Mayor Michael Morrison, used the results of the public meetings to formulate the City. s youth service agenda. At the top of that agenda were plans for a youth summit intended to ensure that Central Texas youth would have the first opportunity to be heard on all summit issues. Amy Achor, a youth representative on the Waco delegation, would chair the youth summit with delegate Rosemary Townsend of Baylor University serving as adult coordinator. The summit planners established several specific goals:

Hold a regional youth summit in Waco before January 1, 1998. The summit was held September 6, 1997 at Baylor University. Sponsors were Baylor, the City of Waco, Communities in Schools/McLennan County Youth Collaboration, Inc., and United Way of Waco/McLennan County. At the summit . one of the first regional youth summits in the nation . 1,200 young people from throughout Central Texas listed their dreams for themselves and their communities, then worked together on plans to make those dreams reality. The plans, compiled in a data base and given to the City of Waco and civic organizations for review and action, have several common themes, including:

  • increased opportunities for youth to voice their opinions to community leaders;

  • more inter-generational projects and activities;

  • youth commissions;

  • increased information about opportunities to serve;

  • increased recognition by the media of the positive activities and actions of young people;

  • adequate resources to provide all youth access to safe places and structured activities;

  • increased opportunities for families to spend time together; and

  • opportunities for youth to be part of community solutions, rather than being seen as community problems.

Each of the young people who attended the summit committed to complete 100 hours of community service . a total of 120,000 hours. Many of those committed hours have already been served and reported. A videotape of all the general sessions at the summit, including highlights of break-out sessions and interviews with delegates, planners and facilitators, was produced to document the event and has been used in presentations.

Select a youth steering committee representative of the diversity of the community. A committee was selected using Teen Leadership Waco, a project of the Tejas Council of Campfire Girls & Boys, as the primary resource. Suggestions for committee membership came from City staff, elected officials, nonprofit and civic organizations, and communities of faith. The 60-member steering committee formed has pledged to work at least until the year 2000.

Secure funding. Contributions of local foundations and corporate sponsors, combined with summit fees, totaled more than $86,800.

Provide pre-summit training to adults and youth facilitators. Prior to the youth summit, 87 adults and 62 young people were trained as facilitators to serve at all community summit events. Trained by Dr. Kevin Barge and other members of the Public Dialogue Consortium, the facilitators have become a tangible community asset and plan to continue to serve the community.

Supply opportunities to 2,000 youth to increase their awareness of volunteer opportunities, enhance their leadership skills, experience an opportunity to speak out on community issues, and learn to motivate both adults and youth to make a difference in America. s future. These opportunities were provided to the 1,200 young people who attended the summit. The Lighted School, Girl Scout Troops, Campfire programs in housing projects and Rev. Gladstone Knight. s Community Training Center have held or have scheduled mini-summits to provide these opportunities to an additional 700 young people, and several City schools are working on additional mini-summits. A November 24-25 Inter-City Youth Summit sponsored by the Carver Neighborhood Association and Bledsoe Miller Recreation Center was coordinated with on-going youth summit efforts to ensure continuity and efficiency, and shared existing resources.

Review the impact of the summit on other communities and on state and national initiatives. Representatives of the Waco Youth Summit made presentations at the September 1997 Governor. s State Volunteerism Conference and Summit Kickoff in San Antonio. Invitations to speak and requests for information and materials have been received from jurisdictions across the country, and the summit planning document has been distributed nationally. The chair of the youth summit has been invited to serve on the national executive committee of a national youth summit to be held in Minneapolis in the year 2000.

Evaluate the short and long term outcomes of the youth summit activities. In October 1997, a report on the youth summit was made to key community leaders, and community focus groups were formed to discuss each of the five resource areas. The groups, with young people serving as facilitators and leaders, examined the issues and concerns of the youth summit delegates which had been quantified and categorized following the summit.

Summit Follow-Up

On February 14, 1998, McLennan County youth and adults held a one-day Community of Cities Youth Summit which used the dreams and plans from the September youth summit as departure points for discussions of the five resources areas. Facilitation sessions elicited commitments from delegates to improve outcomes for community youth in each of the five areas. Plans to connect people who made a commitment at the community summit are in place to match their commitments as promise-makers with appropriate young people, organizations and schools.

On March 21, an asset-building seminar for Waco neighborhood organizations was conducted by community planner Tom Mosgaller, with assistance from community facilitators.

In April, representatives from the facilitators group, summit team, youth summit executive committee, Teen Leadership Waco and the community summit steering committee met to develop plans to ensure that the Waco agenda stays on track at least until the year 2000. The agenda has become a formal continuum combining the promises for each of the five resource areas with measurable goals and objectives. It was decided at this time to establish a youth volunteer center under the auspices of the Tejas Council of Campfire Girls & Boys which will be responsible for recruiting, training and placing youth volunteers and for maintaining a data base of hours worked.

Baylor University students have contributed 50,000 hours of volunteer service through Community Mentoring for Adolescent Development, an award-winning mentoring initiative. A total of 180 University mentors have served over 350 middle school youth and their families.

In May, youth summit chair Amy Achor was selected as one of the five most outstanding young women in America by the National Association of Junior Leagues, Inc. and was honored at a ceremony in Orlando.

"Waco. s Youth Summit reinvigorated existing youth programming and jump-started new initiatives from elements in the community which had not previously been involved," according to Mayor Morrison. "It has given better focus to the need to bring our young people into the process of identifying youth issues and giving direction to possible solutions. Now, instead of telling our young people what we believe the issues are, they are telling us."

Contact: Rosemary Townsend, Administrative Director for Health Services, Baylor University, (254) 710-4988

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