YAC Year in Review 2011 In August of 2011, Arkansas Community Foundation hired two VISTAs (Volunteers in Service to America) through the AmeriCorps program to provide support for the Youth Advisory Councils around Arkansas. Catherine Buercklin, Communications and Research Associate, and Lea Whitlock, Program Associate, were chosen to revamp and aid the YACs by providing program support, regional trainings, social media outreach and more. While we still have more to accomplish in the next few years, we believe 2011 was a great year for the YAC program. To date, we have been able to visit 10 of our YACs (Carroll County, Columbia County, Conway County, Craighead County, Greene County, Hot Springs Area, Johnson County, Monroe County, Pine Bluff Area, and White County), with plans to visit our other nine YACs in early 2012. Though the YACs we’ve visited are at varying levels of development, we are excited to see so many doing well in terms of the youth leadership in their councils, advisor’s and Executive Director’s engagement and support in their work, community service and grantmaking activities. We are excited to see the great progress being made and have even greater hopes that by the end of this summer we will see even more examples of excellence among the YACs we visited and those we have yet to visit!
Fundraising Events Fundraising events help the YACs of Arkansas in many ways: they help raise the awareness of YAC, gives YACers the opportunity to work together as a team, and provide an opportunity to show people what YAC is all about. The main benefit of these events is that they allow the YACs to raise funds they can use to make grants to organizations that help address youth-related issues in their communities. One notable fundraiser this year was held by the Pine Bluff Area YAC group. They titled the event “Youth Acting Crazy” talent show in Pine Bluff. Around 50 people from the Pine Bluff community came to enjoy singers, dancers, and bands perform for the fundraising event. Participants are pictured in front of their venue, the Southeast Arkansas Arts and Science Center, in true form to the theme of the night. They are planning to do a similar talent show in April 2012.
Though the Fayetteville Area YAC group is a little different than most (the YACers are actually students in a service learning class that teaches them how to write grants and read proposals from organizations seeking funding), they don’t shy away from raising funds for those in need. The students raised $24,000 to grant out to their community. A few of the recipients of these grants include driver’s safety classes, recycling initiatives and other projects for the community.
Carroll County YACers are currently writing fund development letters to kick start their work for the upcoming year. They want to get involved in more community service initiatives as well.
Donor Receptions Many YACs hold Donor Receptions to aid their grantmaking impact on their community and to build relationships with leaders of the community. YAC members often write letters inviting ARCF board members, as well as members of different organizations in the surrounding community. Columbia County YACers led the Fall Donor Reception in Magnolia on Oct. 24, 2011.
Hot Springs Area YACers led the Fall Donor Reception in Hot Springs on Dec. 5, 2011.
Carroll County YACers attended the Carroll County Community Foundation Donor Reception in Berryville on Nov. 10, 2011. George Purvis, the YAC adult advisor for Carroll County, said a few words about the YACers and what they do around the community.
Other News Many of our other YACs are doing exciting things in their communities and expanding YAC programs to new heights. Johnson County has started recruiting junior high school students for their YAC program. Monroe County has revived their YAC and currently has five members. All of the members hold an office. Clark County is in the process of forming a new YAC in Gurdon. Craighead County YAC has a new advisor, Blake Johnson, and had their first meeting in September. They are still recruiting YAC members. Delta Area has a new YAC in McGehee and a new advisor, John McCullum. Pope County is in the beginning stages of reviving their YAC program.
YAC Attack! 2011 The 2011 YAC Attack! Youth Philanthropy Conference was a huge success with eight of our YAC groups attending the weekend event held at Camp Tanako in Hot Springs. The first night, each YAC chapter was divided into teams for which they had to complete tasks. As a team-building exercise, the groups had to build a bridge out of tooth picks, marshmallows and straws. The teams also were asked to invent a chant/song and a totem pole to describe and represent their groups. The next day of the conference was reserved for discussion topics including: grantmaking, membership development, endowment building and community service. The Fayetteville YAC also presented a Service Learning project to help middle school science teachers in their community apply for minigrants for materials to conduct science projects for their classes. Some of the sessions were facilitated by post-YACers, Alley Dailey and Justin Buck (both from Hot Springs Area YAC). Josh Markham, a guest speaker from UCA Community Development Institute, spoke to YAC Advisors. Over 50 YAC members attended, along with a total of 14 adult advisors. The counties/areas represented were Craighead County, Cross County, Carroll County, Fayetteville Area, Johnson County, Hot Springs Area, Pine Bluff Area and St. Francis County. A $500 scholarship was awarded to the Cross County YAC for most participants attending YAC Attack! 2011; $250 went to the Pine Bluff YAC from a drawing designed to give everyone an opportunity to win. These funds will be used by these YACs to make more grants in their communities! At the end of the conference YAC adult advisor for Hot Springs Area, Robert Zunick, surprised everyone with YAC jerky from his travels in Japan as a parting gift. It was definitely a fun weekend.
The Future of YAC A lot has been accomplished this year by the “advance guard” for YACs across Arkansas. We resolve to begin the New Year with a proactive strategy for the year to come. We have reached out to YAC members and advisors via monthly newsletters, weekly facebook posts and weekly blog posts. We have visited YAC groups far and wide to remind them of our support and to give them pointers on meeting structure, grant cycles and other important aspects of being a YAC. We have also unveiled new brochures for Executive Directors, YAC advisors and YAC members to distribute to the schools in their communities to those who are interested or have questions about the YAC program. A good deal of effort has gone into planning a great YAC Attack! for 2012. We have had more input from YACers about what they want to accomplish at the youth philanthropy conference than previous years. We have youth leaders from outside of YAC planning to address the YAC Attack! attendees on the importance of philanthropy and the difference young adults can make in their communities. While no great work is ever truly finished, we hope that by the end of 2012 we can see a greater awareness about the YAC program and a greater sense of what it means to be a “YACer.”
The YAC Team (from left): Catherine Buercklin, Chris Love and Lea Whitlock