By Susan A. Merkner, IMCOM Public AffairsJune 10, 2019
Leadership -- by teens and for teens -- is the focus of the upcoming Army Youth Leadership Forum, set for mid-June in Massachusetts.
The Army's youth program is designed to teach teens ages 14 to 18 resiliency skills so they can avoid high-risk behaviors and build resilience.
The third annual Youth Leadership Forum will focus on issues which the teens have declared most relevant to their lives. Participants use a consensus process to identify the top three Army-wide youth issues and their recommended solutions. Each year, Army leaders are invited to the forum and are briefed on the issues by the teens.
The 12-member Army Teen Panel met in April to plan the June event, which is organized by the U.S. Army Installation Management Command's G9 Child and Youth Services program. The teen panel serves as the "voice of Army youth" for senior leaders and adult staff. Members of the teen panel are selected during a competitive process. Teens attending the forum are selected by their local installations and accompanied by CYS staff.
"The Army Teen Panel members have received feedback from their peers at the garrison and directorate levels regarding which issues are most important," said CYS youth program manager Joe Marton. "During their meeting in April, the Teen Panel narrowed the issues down to the five most vital ones."
The entire group of Youth Leadership Forum participants will vote electronically on the top three issues. Small group discussions, led by teens, will allow all opinions to be heard as the young leaders write a briefing for Army leaders.
Col. Thomas Stewart, director of joint staff, Army and Air National Guard, at Joint Force Headquarters, Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, also attended the ATP event in April to provide guidance on military briefing methods.
Teens at the Youth Leadership Forum are kept busy throughout the event, with activities focused on character and leadership education; college and career exploration; health, wellness, recreation, art and life skills activities; peer-to-peer communication and resiliency training; service learning opportunities; and training in briefing techniques.
Forum participants are encouraged to take ideas, skills and information back to their garrisons and to brief the results of the forum at their garrison youth program.
Nearly 100 teens attended the 2018 Youth Leadership Forum and identified the top three issues as developing peer-to-peer relationship skills in an effort to reach those who may be contemplating emotional hurdles, thinking about suicide, stress or depression; career development, specifically gaining work experience while attending high school; and providing more varied, healthier snacks at garrison youth activities, along with opportunities to learn cooking skills.
In response to those concerns, CYS professionals developed a program that provides options for meals and snacks at Army youth centers, and introduced new classes to help teens learn how to shop for healthy cooking options and how to prepare nutritious meals. A nutrition expert is scheduled to address this year's forum on how the Army responded to their previous concerns.
CYS also plans sessions at this year's forum on peer-to-peer relationship skills and career development, Marton said.