Fort McCoy News August 22, 2014

McCoy youth, staff attend Youth Leadership Forum

Youth and staff from the Fort McCoy School Age Center/Youth Center (SAC/YC) attended an Armywide Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) in San Antonio, Texas, in July.

SAC/YC Director Cori Yahnke and Army Family members Elissa Nott and Alyssia Fitzgibbons participated in the week-long YLF.
Nott attended two days of junior adviser training prior to the start of the YLF, Yahnke said. From there, the YLF presented many opportunities for the attendees.

Photo for youth article
Youth (pictured above and below) attending the Armywide Youth
Leadership Forum in San Antonio, Texas, participate in team-building
and leadership activities.
Photos by Cori Yahnke

Photo 2 for youth article

On the first day of the forum, youth participated in teambuilding activities and ice breakers and also started the Army Family Action Plan (AFAP) process.

"The AFAP Issue Forum meetings were a main focus of the forum," Yahnke said. "This is the teens' chance to have their voices heard regarding issues they feel are important to youth across the Army garrisons."

Each U.S.-based Army garrison sent issues from their local youth centers to be discussed by the teens at YLF.

"A long list of issues was discussed and voted on and narrowed down to the top five issues," Yahnke said. "The teens then broke into five groups to talk about those issues and give their input on possible solutions. They met in their AFAP groups multiple times for three days and then gave presentations on those issues."

The five issues discussed were: Safety, Funding for Trips, Separate Space for SAC/YC Youth, Eligibility for Veterans and Joint Base Youth, and Diversity of Entertainment for Teens on Garrisons.

The presentations were given to Army leadership, Yahnke said, to explain the issues, describe who the issue affected and how it did so, and to offer possible solutions to the issues. All youth at the forum participated in the AFAP presentations.

When not in AFAP meetings, youth participated in other leadership and networking activities. One leadership activity included visiting the Warrior and Family Support Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

"While there, the youth performed some community service work," Yahnke said. "Youth and staff members received a tour and helped with various landscaping needs at the center."

Another activity Yahnke said the teens greatly enjoyed was called "Yarn Net."

"Groups of teens stood in a tight circle and passed yarn balls back and forth around them creating a large mesh of yarn," Yahnke said. "Then, they tied off the ends of the net and were able to place a person on the net and lift them using the yarn. Teens had a blast taking turns as lifter and liftee.

"They later wore the yarn nets as wigs," Yahnke said. "It was a great activity for them."

Nott said she appreciated the opportunity to attend the YLF.

"I personally learned how to collaborate with other people and ideas and bring them forth to be presented," Nott said. "My leadership- and public-speaking skills were further enhanced, as well, because of how we were able to present to an audience and receive feedback on our presentation."

Nott added that forums like this are important to improve and increase opportunities for military youth, especially teenagers.

"These forums are important to military teens because this is when we (can) address issues that affect us," Nott said. "If we can change these problems and try to resolve them, we will help teens have better opportunities."

Yahnke agreed. "Through the AFAP process, the teens were able to make their voices heard," she said. "Teens have a unique experience in the Army Family, and they know best what issues affect them most. Giving them the proper skills and avenue to raise those issues is a great life-skill experience."

In addition to the YLF being a good networking experience for the youth, Yahnke said it offered a good information exchange between youth center staff members from across the Army.

"Staff networking allows directors and program staff to get information and ideas for their own programs from other professionals," Yahnke said. "That is a great wealth of information."

Nott also later attended an Army Teen Panel in San Antonio that included meeting with military teens from other services, which she said helped build on her YLF experience.

"I really enjoyed collaborating with different branches of the military to see how our issues with life as a military teen have similarities and differences," Nott said.

For more information about the SAC/YC program at Fort McCoy, call Yahnke at 608-388-4373.

(Information courtesy of Fort McCoy SAC/YC.)