In 1989, W.K. Kellogg Foundation conceived an idea to help seed community foundations throughout Michigan if the local Foundation agreed to establish a permanent youth fund and a Youth Advisory Council (YAC). They wanted to help create a strong philanthropic training ground for youth and, in a few short years, over 86 YACs were formed across Michigan. The goal was to help young people learn generosity and leadership and at the same time build stronger and more caring communities.
Give to Oceana’s Youth Fund and support our YAC here.
What is the Youth Advisory Council (YAC)?
The Youth Advisory Council is a special “youth as grant makers” project of the Community Foundation for Oceana County. The Council, made up of adult advisors and 45 student representatives from Oceana County’s area schools, involves young people in solving real problems affecting their communities and peers. YAC members help set policy and guide distribution of over $20,000 a year in grants to promising youth related projects in Oceana County. This special group of young people are Oceana County’s own local panel of experts regarding youth issues who provide recommendations to the Community Foundation for Oceana County’s board of directors about grants to be awarded from the fund each year.
2019 Youth Needs Assessment
Following Council of Michigan Foundation’s best practices, the Council is tasked with conducting a County-wide needs assessment survey every three years.
A YAC sub-committee designed and administered the survey, with the support of school administration. Over 650 youth responded to the survey, from 6th-12th grades, evenly spread across school districts and gender. Respondents identified top issues from a list of 42 options affecting themselves and their peers. The top 5 issues stood well apart from the rest (ranked 1-5): stress from schoolwork, vaping use, bullying in school, depression/suicidal thoughts, and lack of self-esteem.
Collectively, YAC members have determined priority areas for their activities and grantmaking. The youth agreed that many of the issues that came to light through this survey were mental health related. Others that were behavioral, such as vaping use, the group determined could be coping mechanisms teens turn to when dealing with stress and depression. YAC members decided to prioritize mental health and positive coping mechanisms for stress for their 2020 work.
Members of YAC attend one meeting a month to make grant making decisions or to learn more about youth issues in Oceana County. Four times a year the Council reviews grant proposals for youth projects and determines which projects will receive funding by evaluating the proposals and making site visits to the agency requesting funding. Since its inception, our YAC has made over 449 grants to local youth projects totaling over $432,000.