Shawnee Youth Coalition (SYC) started in 2002 after youth felt like they did not have a voice in the community. Throughout the existence of SYC there have been events focusing on underage drinking prevention, community outreach, mental health, and youth leadership. Things are continuously changing based on what the current youth want to focus on. The coalition is youth led by co-leaders, that are juniors and seniors in high school, and the coalition consists of middle and high school students. This is possible through the funding of United Way of Pottawatomie County and other community grants for specific projects, as well as the work of the youth. In April of 2021, SYC was able to host a virtual Youth Speak Out event where adult community leaders were given the opportunity to hear from local youth about things that they are passionate about. Speeches included topics around suicide, mentor programs, reading resources, and walking trails.This was a great way to give youth a platform to speak to adults and feel heard. SYC does many of their events during the school year, however some of the biggest projects happen in the summer. It can sometimes be difficult to find things to do during the summer, and SYC works to help give youth something to do while also helping their community.
A major summer event that SYC organizes is Sports and Arts Camp. This is a free, two week camp for elementary school kids to experience activities they may have never done before. Most camps during the summer have a cost to attend and equipment/supplies are not always provided. By eliminating these barriers campers are able to try out different activities to see what might interest them for the future. The staff of the camp are middle and high school students that lead the camper teams and also run the workshops. The staff all volunteer their time and give a piece of their summer to spend it with elementary students. The relationships that are built between the two-weeks continue on and many campers become staff when they are old enough. This also creates layers of leadership from elementary all the way up to high school. Camp this year will be held at Jefferson Elementary following their summer school program. We are still looking for youth and young adults to help make camp the best it can be.
While I was in middle and high school, Shawnee Youth Coalition was a valuable resource for me to gain leadership skills and make friends. It led me towards my passion for community work and my current position as the youth coordinator. There are adults in the community who support youth and want to work alongside them. There are no requirements for attending meetings and activities in hopes that we can involve as many youth as we can. Our young people are the biggest resource for addressing youth issues and SYC will continue being a platform for this.
Throughout the summer, we have many other activities and work to keep engagement while youth aren’t in school. All activities are open to middle and high school students and are free. The best way to stay connected is through our social media pages or by contacting Taylor Bivings at 405-837-8893.