For middle and high school students looking to make a difference in their community, the Washington County Youth Advisory Council (YAC) is a great first step. The YAC, a companion group of the Marietta Community Foundation, was created in 2016 to support youth by developing their knowledge of philanthropy, skills for improving their community through service learning, and resources for implementing youth-focused, youth-led service projects.
“The best way to empower youth is to help them embrace their ability to make a difference and help others,” said Britani Merritt, Advisor for the Council and Support Services Assistant at the Marietta Community Foundation. “Teaching youth the importance of helping others and taking care of the world around them is an essential part of building character. It is also important to encourage them to think about what they want to do to make the world a better place so they can truly understand the power of their actions.”
The YAC is comprised of eager students from all across Washington County. For their first project, the group focused on assisting incoming foster children with the transition to their new foster families. This year, the students are collecting supplies and purchasing materials to install four Little Free Libraries throughout Washington County, which will house books for teens as well as hygiene products. Students fundraised and applied for a grant to purchase the supplies, collected donations, met with each community to identify a location and request approval, and painted the libraries. Next month, the libraries will be installed in Vincent, Lowell, Beverly, and New Matamoras.
Participating students learn about the needs in Washington County, how nonprofit organizations work, and the importance of giving back. “The YAC is a perfect place to encourage role modeling, helping children find their philanthropic voice and much more,” said Merritt. “YAC provides an opportunity for youth from schools across the area to build skills in leadership. Essentially, we are training young philanthropists to truly make an impact in areas they care about.”
“I joined the Youth Advisory Council because I wanted to meet other people who wanted to do good in the community around me and learn how to be a better philanthropist,” said Jared Farnsworth, a student at Frontier School District.
Ryleigh Barrett, a student at Belpre High School, said, “The YAC has been a perfect place for me to practice my leadership skills while also giving back to the community I love.”
While each school district offers service-based clubs and groups, the YAC brings students together from different schools to work on projects that impact the whole county. “YAC opens up their eyes to a world or people who live right near them, and teaches youth how to collaborate with others, voice their opinions, and bond through service,” said Merritt. “I love seeing the change in the members throughout the program. They are confident young people with a newfound set of skills, knowledge, and self-worth.” The YAC is open to all middle school and high school students in Washington County and new members are accepted at any time. You can follow the YAC on Facebook for updates.
The Youth Advisory Council meets every other Wednesday evening from 6:30 - 7:30pm at the Marietta Community Foundation Office. Interested in Joining? Contact Britani Merritt at (740) 373-3286 or via email at email@example.com.