All posts by Carolyn Strzalka

YAC Gives Back!

The Ionia County Youth Advisory Council partnered with IM Kids 3rd Meal to complete three service projects that focus on helping children in our community at their January 25th, 2017 meeting.

YAC completed “Project Warm Hearts” in honor of Martin Luther King Day of Service. 20170125_102206Martin Luther King Day of Service helps to make the national holiday a “day on, not a day off” by uniting volunteers to reaffirm King’s teachings of nonviolence and social justice.  “Project Warm Hearts” was funded by the Michigan Community Service Commission and was a collaboration between IM Kids 3rd Meal, Green Acres of Ionia, and YAC. For this project, YAC worked with the residents of Green Acres to make no sew fleece scarves for children who are food insecure in Ionia and Montcalm counties. After the scarves were made, IM Kids 3rd Meal volunteers packaged them and distributed them with the meals. 370 students received scarves.

20170125_093647YAC and IM Kids 3rd Meal partnered on another project, thanks to the support of local dentists. YAC packaged donations of toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, and coupons to be distributed with IM Kids 3rd Meals for the American Dental Association’s National Children’s Dental Health Month. Donations from Dr. Daniel Tift in Belding, Dr. Kathleen Ellsworth in Saranac, Dr. James Klein in Ionia, Dr. Crist Johnson in Ionia, Boucher Family Dentistry in Ionia, Muscott & Muscott Dental Health in Ionia, and Dr. Robert Payne in Ionia helped YAC create over 500 dental hygiene kits for kids in need in Ionia and Montcalm counties. These kits will be distributed in February.

YAC also created “Capes for Kids!”. these are superhero capes for kids who live in shelters across the state of Michigan. The idea behind the capes is that the capes give children facing a difficult time in their life something to take comfort in and give them confidence. Our hope is that these capes give kids the confidence they need to be their own superhero! Check out the capes YACers made!

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If you want to get more involved with IM Kids 3rd Meal, check out http://imkids.org.

Summer Leadership Training Camp

Registration for the Michigan Youth Leadership Training (MIYLT) is now open! MIYLT is a week-long leadership training camp designed for high school students who want to learn how to become a leader and make an impact on their community. The camp is designed around interactive simulations, trainings, cultural diversity, social justice, and service. Camp began in 2011 after Youth Advisory Council students decided that they wanted to host a camp to help their peers become leaders. 13987669_1203941619662486_5347529685656688310_o

Throughout the week, campers build their leadership skills by discovering the wilderness, experiencing service, developing perspectives, learning about and experiencing different cultures, exploring issues of community involvement, poverty, race relations, ethics, and learning strategies for addressing social issues. Campers get to canoe, swim, climb a rock wall, interact with their peers, and experience life changing simulations that will help students become more aware of the world around them.

All high school students, those entering 9th grade to 12th grade, are welcome to register for this week long summer camp at MIYLT.org. The cost of the camp is only $20, thanks to our partnership with State Farm. MIYLT 2017 will be held June 25thto June 30th13524578_1166058323450816_7060588525149836258_n

MIYLT is a life-changing week of adventure, self-discovery, friendship, cultural exchange, leadership-building, and service. But don’t just take our word for it! Check out what previous campers have to say about MIYLT

“I didn’t learn how to become a leader. I learned how to be myself and it just so happens that I am a leader.” – 2016 MIYLT Camper

“Camp was powerful, it really made you think about life and human nature.” – 2016 MIYLT Camper

“It helped me define myself as a leader in the making and has improved my skills so so much. I have come a long way”- 2016 MIYLT Camper

“Leadership is when you challenge yourself to be a better your everyday. Serving others while still working on yourself. A great leader is somebody who realizes they have to ‘be the change [they] wish to see.” – 2013 MIYLT Camper

“MIYLT challenged campers to think about how their actions affect others. They begin to learn how they can make positive impacts on others in their community. The best part of MIYLT is seeing the growth students experience in a week.” – 2016 MIYLT Staffer

November YAC Meeting

The Youth Advisory Council met on November 10th, 2016 and created Holiday Cards for Troops which will be distributed to active members of our Armed Forces through the organization Blue Star Mothers of America!20161110_092245

The Blue Star Mothers is a group of mothers, grandmothers, and female legal guardians who have children serving in the military, guard or reserves, or children who are veterans. This group of motivated women support each other and their children and promote patriotism. Each year, the Blue Star Mothers make Holiday Care Packages for active service members.

At the November meeting, YACers learned about Ronald McDonald House, a charity that helps families who have children in the hospitals. They also had a guest speaker from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. This speaker gave an orientation to the students about what it means to be a member of the Youth Advisory Council and a grant maker.

Next month, the students will be participating in their annual project “RACK’ed by YAC”. RACK stands for Random Acts of Christmas Kindness. The students will be visiting the residents at Green Acres in Ionia and distributing stockings and candy canes!

6th Annual Strive 2 Arrive Alive Conference

The 6th Annual Strive 2 Arrive Alive Teen Driver Safety Conference was held on October 26, 2016. This statewide educational event, hosted by the Ionia County Youth Advisory Council, welcomed thirteen high schools to Celebration! Cinema Grand Rapids North & IMAX to learn about the dangers of distracted driving. Over 590 students spent the day listening to heartfelt and impactful speakers, learning from informative vendors, and trying out distracted driving simulators. 20161026_113252

One third of attending students shared that they do not yet have their driver’s license but are planning to in the near future.  “It is really different from being a passenger to becoming a driver, because you are distracted by a different amount of things, and we want to bring awareness to those, so that we can be careful out on the roads,” shared Youth Advisory Council Co-chair Shannon Hoekstra on why members of the Youth Advisory Council make their campaign against distracted driving a priority.

20161026_113706By reaching out to students, the Youth Advisory Council hopes to reach young drivers and their families. When asked if she would share the information she learned today with others, a student attending the conference said “[Yes] I learned a lot of new information that I can share with my small community. Many others can benefit from this information”.

According to a recent study conducted by State Farm, over eighty percent of teens admitted to driving while distracted. One attending student shared, “this conference helped give me some perspective on my actions. Think before you act and don’t let yourself get distracted”. The Ionia County Youth Advisory Council encourages their peers to “Stop the texts, Stop the Wrecks”.

A special thank you to all of our sponsors for making this conference possible; State Farm, Northridge Center Store AT&T, Ford Driving Skills for Life, Portland Products, and DeNooyer Chevrolet.

Check out the conference on WOTV 4! Teens “Strive to Arrive Alive” with student led conference

YAC was on Wood TV 8 DayBreak!

Students from the Youth Advisory Council had the opportunity to promote the 6th Annual Strive 2 Arrive Alive Teen Driver Safety Conference on WoodTV 8’s Daybreak Show on October 5th, 2016 in Grand Rapids! Students woke up at 4 am to travel to Grand Rapids to promote the conference at 5:30 am to 7 am. Great job, YACers!

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YAC’s First Meeting of the Year!

The Youth Advisory Council met for the first time this school year on September 29th, 2016. 47 students from all 7 schools attended, including Pewamo-Westphalia, who recently joined the group.

We had a great first meeting! Students volunteered at Green Acres and Heartland Health Care Center in Ionia. Everyone had a great time interacting with residents!

YACers play board games with residents at Heartland Health Care Center
YAC at Green Acres
A resident gets her nails painted by YACers

Thank you for having us, Green Acres and Heartland!

2016 Michigan Youth Leadership Camp

MIYLT 2016 was a huge success!

Nearly 50 campers attended to increase their leadership skills and have a life-changing week of adventure. This year, campers participated in teambuilding activities, cultural events, simulations, and service projects all while building friendships and exploring the outdoors. Campers and counselors alike left with new perspectives and skills that will last them a lifetime. When asked about the impact camp had on them one camper said, “it helped me define myself as a leader in the making and improved my skills so so much. I have come a long way.” Another camper said, “camp was powerful, it really made you think about life and human nature.” If you’re interested in attending next year’s camp, look out for registration opening in February 2017.

Check us out on WOTV4, here!

Strive 2 Arrive Alive School Registration

If your school is interested in attending the 6th Annual Strive 2 Arrive Alive Teen Driver Safety Conference on October 26th, 2016 from 8 am to 2 pm at Celebration! Cinema Grand Rapids North (2121 Celebration Dr NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525), please fill out the following forms. Bus grants for transportation to and from the conference are also available.

Lunch will be provided for all conference guests.

Each attending school must register here and fill out a school sign in form:

6th Annual State-Wide Teen Driver Safety Conference School Registration

Conference Sign In 2016

Each attending student must have filled out a minor release form:

Minor Release

Bus grants are available below and must be returned to Deborah Wagner by November 4th, 2016.

Bus Grant for Teen Safety Conference