A diverse group of approximately 50 youth from the Kansas City metropolitan area, called the Promise Youth, have been instrumental in mobilizing youth through the metropolitan area to be of service to others. They are the driving force behind an evolving systemic change which enables and empowers youth to be of service through volunteering.
The Promise Youth began organizing a year ago in tandem with the effort to organize Kansas City's Promise and Youth Summit. Several students who were invited to be part of the efforts to provide the five fundamental resources promoted by America's Promise to area youth wanted more. While they appreciated being part of the movement to provide services to youth, they wanted to mobilize services by youth. So they expanded their numbers to include students from every school district from both sides of the state line in the metropolitan area.
The Promise Youth wanted to do more than one-time volunteer projects on a hit and miss basis. Their vision was to create a system by which youth could volunteer on an on-going basis. A couple of the students had service-learning programs in their schools, while a couple others had other community service projects. After assessing the few opportunities, they decided to make a promise:
"The Kansas City's Promise Youth promises to advocate for Community Service Clubs, with a faculty sponsor, in middle schools and high schools in the five-county metropolitan area by the year 2000. These Community Service Clubs will reach out and recruit young people in Kansas City involved in giving back to their communities."
As a kick-off to their promise, the Promise Youth organized a Youth Breakfast, which attracted some 125 youth from both sides of the state line. Prior to the breakfast, the Promise Youth organized a metro-area-wide essay contest on the theme of what a 'caring adult' has meant in their lives. The finalists shared their essays and introduced their caring adult.
The Promise Youth then began organizing the fall conference to inspire and motivate youth and provide them with resources to start Community Service Clubs in their schools. They interviewed all of the existing service-learning programs in the area and conducted extensive research and produced a 43-page manual on how to start Community Service Clubs.
The Promise Youth proceeded to organize and develop a conference around the subject. Nearly 400 high school students and faculty advisors from 50 schools gathered and learned how to give back to the community. Participants heard from national speakers and other youth with extraordinary accomplishments in the service field. The conference also featured break-out sessions, model service programs from schools with already established clubs, sessions by area Volunteer Centers on how to get service clubs started and strategic planning sessions.
The Promise Youth are in the follow-up phase with the schools to provide them with added incentive and to link them to the area Volunteer Centers and the volunteer opportunities available as the service clubs are formed.
"Kansas City's Promise Youth are truly making a difference…not only creating a system by which students can volunteer, but ultimately in the services that those clubs provide to those in need in Kansas City," remarked Denny Barnett, Director, Volunteer Connection.