The Woburn Youth Council has been a driving force for promoting service in Woburn, Massachusetts. Working with adult advisors and community partners, this group of middle and high school students has made tremendous contributions to Social Capital Inc.’s (SCI) efforts to increase youth civic engagement in Woburn.
SCI was created in response to evidence that civic engagement and social capital have declined precipitously over the past 30 years. In 2002, SCI facilitated a series of community meetings attended by more than 100 residents and organizations that led to the establishment of the initial SCI priorities. The need to provide young people with hands-on opportunities to develop civic leadership skills was considered by many to be a real community need, and the Youth Council is an important strategy for achieving that goal.
A partnership was established between the Youth Council and the Boys & Girls Club of Woburn in 2002 to provide Council members an opportunity to directly engage youth in the community in service-learning activities. In bridging the gap between youth and service, the Youth Council has teamed up with youth from a local church to plan a Martin Luther King Day Project. This captures the adults’ recollections about Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. They also brought together some 60 youth and adults to discuss community issues and strategies in the Youth Adult Connections (YAC). The Youth Council also partnered with a local environmental group and the Woburn Senior Center in organizing a community-wide beautification project that drew in excess of 50 volunteers for National Youth Service Day.
Since the Youth Council’s inception in 2002, Council members have devoted more than 3,000 volunteer hours in community service projects. Now in its second year of programming, the Council has grown to 22 members. They expect a strong membership interest expected for the 2004-2005 year also.
The Woburn Youth Council has reached more than 1,000 community residents in its first two years of programming. Additional Council-led projects include a Mayoral Debate and Mini – grants. Council members coordinated a very successful debate between the two Mayoral candidates and more than 400 high school students attended it. Students in civics classes generated the questions from the debate. The Council also funded nine youth-initiated projects for a total grant amount of $10,000. The projects funded are expected to engage more than 500 youth in about 2,000 hours of service-learning and social capital building activities.