FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (April 11, 2017) -- Listening, comparing experiences, collaborating and finding consensus is not lost on our Army youth, whose advocates help assure strength in the ranks of our Soldiers. Success is measured by accruing leaders.

As the U.S. Army celebrates April as "Month of the Military Child," a dozen youth leaders on the Army Teen Panel are preparing for the inaugural CYS Worldwide Youth Leadership Forum.

Sponsored by the Army Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation's Child, Youth and School Services, or CYS, the Army Teen Panel is designed to foster communication between Army teens and Army leadership regarding issues youths encounter in society.

Junior advisors Elissa Nott of Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, and Tyree Murphy of Fort Hamilton, New York, are returning to the 2017 Army Teen Panel. They are joined by Army National Guard dependents Carolyn Sheets and Jared Brodie; Laura Lee of Daegu, South Korea; Xavier Garrido of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; Madelaine Hamby of Vicenza, Italy; Malcolm Watts of Benelux-Schinnen, Netherlands; Kevin Carrier of Fort Polk, Louisiana; Jason Evans of Fort Riley, Kansas, Olga Zubak of Fort Drum, New York; and Destiny Betts of Fort Hamilton, New York.

"They are the youth leaders who represent teens throughout the Army," explained Joseph Marton, a CYS program manager at U.S. Army Installation Management Command Headquarters in San Antonio. "They learn the basic principles of meetings and notetaking and agenda. It's a pretty cool process, especially when you get to the point where the young people are out-briefing the commander."

The Army Teen Panel met privately in late February and began preparations for the 2017 Child, Youth and School Services Worldwide Youth Leadership Forum, or WWYLF, scheduled for late July. Each U.S. Army Garrison will select one youth leader and one staff member to attend the WWYLF.

Based on the principles of the annual Army Family Action Plan Conference, the Army Teen Panel will review issues presented from each of IMCOM's five directorates -- Europe, Pacific, Readiness, Sustainment and Training -- and narrow them to the top three issues, which will be presented to Army senior leaders for resolution.

"At that meeting in February, [the panelists] really developed the process that's going to be used to bring those other 68 youths coming in July to come to a consensus on those top three issues," said Larry Dixon, a CYS transition specialist at IMCOM Headquarters.

Whichever issues elevated from a list of concerns gathered by teenagers on garrisons and installations around the Army, could become priorities for senior Army officials as they look toward FY 18.

"Every year, youth at the garrisons work together with their youth counselor and they canvas their garrison and seek out issues," Marton said. "They canvas the skaters, the athletes, the artists, every social cluster in the community, to determine just what are those issues that impact youth that can be addressed, not only locally, but at the IMCOM Directorate and then at the Department of Army level."

The process begins with each of 68 garrisons or installations submitting up to three issues for consideration. Those issues are whittled to 15, at most, by the five IMCOM Directorates. At the July forum, the Army Teen Panel determines which three issues will be briefed to Army senior leadership for possible resolution.

The CYS Worldwide Youth Leadership Forum offers technology and team-building activities, character and leadership education, service learning, and techniques used in briefing, problem solving and decision making. Participants are expected to share new ideas, skills and knowledge with their peers back at home on the installations.

"We're supposed to be building resiliency in teens, and teens need to feel like they are being heard, and that there are people who truly care," Dixon said. "The fact that we can demonstrate that, 'OK, you've given us the issues, and we are working hard with you on trying to address these issues.' That helps build resiliency in teens."

"And they come back," Marton chimed in. "When they know that we listen and we value their opinions, they come back. And they go back to their constituents and say, 'You're going to have Wi-Fi in your Youth Center. We know it's been several years in the works, but it came from this process.'

"Although it takes time sometimes in the federal government to get stuff done, at least the issues didn't disappear and people kept working on them to the point to where we're seeing fruition on some of the issues that they've raised."

The forum also provides training for young and old Army leaders, alike.

"While the youth are working together developing issues [that need to be addressed Army-wide], we use the opportunity to bring the staff together and they get to see how we work with the youth and bring in subject-matter experts," Marton said. "So the staff, at the same time, is having a training opportunity. They can build efficiencies for what they work locally at their garrison."

Although IMCOM program managers provide the foundation, "U.S. Army Teens Coming Together for a Better Future," facilitate and mentor the process.

"We know that we have been successful when they are operating the youth leadership forum with little facilitation or mentoring on our part," Marton said. "There are citizenship programs and there are opportunities for young people to learn leadership skills."

INFO BOX:

This is the 31st anniversary of the Department of Defense designating April as Month of the Military Child, recognizing that the strength of the nation is built on the readiness and resilience of every member of the all-volunteer Army, including the personal sacrifice of Family members and the children of military service members and Department of Defense Civilians.

Month of the Military Child is one of the ways the Army can recognize, applaud, and celebrate the resilience of military children and their role in ensuring a ready force now and into the future.

The 2017 Month of the Military Child theme: "Military Kids: At Home Across the World," could help Americans understand how important military children are -- no matter where they are stationed. The CYS Worldwide Youth Leadership Forum could make military children feel more at home -- no matter where they are stationed.