Luis: 2015 Youth Advisory Board Retreat Recap!

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2015 Youth Advisory Board members at their yearly retreat

Earlier this month, the Youth Advisory Board (YAB) held its annual retreat; a yearly event where all of our members are able to meet face-to-face for a weekend of productive meetings, group bonding, and some fun activities! As a group with members from all over the country, and some even studying abroad, our yearly retreat is the one of the few times during the year when the entire YAB is able to meet in-person and get down to some serious reflection and planning for the year ahead.

This year, the YAB retreat was held at Plan International USA’s office in Warwick, RI, my home-state, so luckily I had a very short distance to travel to attend. However, many of our other members had to travel much further, coming from places like Colorado, Chicago, and Florida! No matter where our members travel from, having the chance to see all our fellow YAB-ers in one room and catching up on all we accomplished as a group over the past year is always an exhilarating experience!

After everyone arrived in Rhode Island on Friday and we enjoyed a delicious group dinner on our first night together, the YAB quickly got to work tackling our first project of the retreat; recognizing the devastating impact Ebola has had on youth in Sierra Leone and Liberia. The group unanimously agreed to draft, create, and send a message of support and solidarity for those youth affected by this terrible outbreak and humanitarian crisis in West Africa. To do this, the YAB decided it would be best to make a short video using the #HandsOnHearts campaign that we would could send with Plan USA’S CEO, Tessie San Martin, during her visit to affected Plan communities in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Check out our video here!

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The YAB also collaborated on a number of other projects during our weekend together, such as reflection activities to review and assess our accomplishments and struggles over the preceding year and to map out our priorities and goals for the next year. Topics of discussion included strengthening ties between the Youth United for Global Action (YUGA) network and the YAB, reaching out to other international YABs around the world, and how to best expand and improve upon the YAB network by engaging with like-minded groups and individuals.

One major goal that the YAB discussed at the retreat and prioritized for this upcoming year is the recruitment of new YAB members!  Recently, the two founding members of the Youth Advisory Board, our awesome YAB-ers Marisa and Sara, have decided to begin their transition off the board while still remaining partly involved in the YAB through an aptly-named ‘Wise Elder’ role. Meanwhile, the YAB decided this is the perfect time to recruit new, inspiring youth to join in their place. As a group, we are interested in finding motivated, passionate individuals interested in acting out Plan’s mission to end child poverty around the world. Sound like you? Consider applying here!

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The YAB is hard at work planning the year ahead with our consultant Jeremy

All in all, this year’s YAB retreat was a productive weekend that really invigorated and excited all of us on the board. There are so many exciting opportunities right on the horizon for our group and being able to map out all of our group goals and plans for the upcoming year is always an important exercise for any organization to undertake. More importantly, I think the YAB retreat also serves as a reminder for every one of us on the board as to why we decided to serve on the board in the first place: serving a greater purpose by helping those in need, wherever they may be in the world. This is perhaps best summed up by the YAB’s mission statement, which is reviewed and confirmed by the Board every year at our retreat. Our current mission statement reads as follows: “We are a body of young people vocalizing the needs of the entire youth population by serving as ambassadors to PLAN USA. We strive to create and nurture a network between PLAN’s international youth and its decision makers in order to reinforce PLAN’s mission of empowering and assisting children worldwide.” Every year when the YAB confirms this statement, we are committing ourselves to carry out the ideals of this message every single day in the hope of making the world a better place for tomorrow. This year was no different!

Kyle: “It’s empowering to know that you have a voice capable of influencing action.”

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Youth Advisory Board Member, Kyle

           I first heard about the International Day of the Girl youth ambassador opportunity after becoming a member of Plan International USA’s Youth Advisory Board in 2013. Plan’s involvement with International Day of the Girl is unique in that it allows youth to exercise their voice on the same level, and through the same mediums, that professionals in the field of girls’ rights do. Plan has unflinchingly stood by the belief that young people should have a tangible platform to influence matters that affect them. The implementation of this concept is integral when dealing with a topic like girls’ rights because the affected population consists entirely of young people. As a young person who has been significantly impacted by Plan’s youth-centered programming, I find it imperative to participate in events like International Day of the Girl. It’s empowering to know that your opinion is valued and that you have a voice capable of influencing action.

           Even before I became an International Day of the Girl youth ambassador, I was interested in the role that boys play in girls’ rights advocacy. When working in Peru with Plan in 2013, I saw the power that men and boys have in motivating other males to work towards breaking down societal barriers that inhibit girls and women. Moreover, I observed that the most sustainable progress in the field of gender equality can be driven by youth. In many ways, as individuals reach adulthood, it becomes increasingly difficult to influence their perceptions. It’s observed, also, that some of the most significant social change can occur generationally after youth chose to combat systems of oppression. Because of this, young people have an unprecedented capability to define the social norms of their generation. Throughout my time with Plan in New York, my fellow ambassadors from Uganda, Pakistan, and the United States affirmed my belief that a partnership between young men and women from around the globe can, indeed, make a difference on the gender-equality front.

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Youth ambassadors after being awarded at the Because I am a Girl Gala

The highlight of my week was a panel presentation at UNICEF that one of my fellow ambassadors spoke at. Even though she had to speak through a translator, she received a hypnotized standing-ovation from the audience. Malala Yousafzai had won the Nobel Peace Prize earlier that week. My friend’s words, her experiences, as if coming from Malala herself, made everyone in the room come alive with passion, empathy, and common purpose. That experience made something clear to me: every young woman who faces oppression and discrimination on the basis of their gender can be galvanized into an unparalleled force for social action against gender-inequality. But what I found particularly striking was that this young woman wasn’t empowered by any institution or group; she wasn’t given this immense power by anyone but herself, it was completely self-perpetuated, and her message radiated from within. In my mind this calls into question the wording of Millennium Development Goal Three: ‘promote gender equality and empower women.’ Young women are clearly empowered.

           That being said, societal barriers such as gender norms, limited access to education, and limited access to employment restrict this power by burying it beneath thick layers of sediment. The role of boys and men here is to help shovel off some of this metaphoric sediment and uncover a level platform for everyone to stand on as equals. Because boys and men are frequently the individuals who (sometimes unbeknownst to them) innately perpetuate these cycles of gender-based subjugation, they are in a unique position to support their mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends to topple the same cycles. If this can be accomplished, we are faced with a reality in which everyone, regardless of gender, has the ability to perpetuate their own inherent power. This concept of a global partnership for self-empowerment is at the very root of not only feminism, but international development, which is why the two forces go hand-in-hand so naturally. My friend’s speech at UNICEF embodied this idea of partnership, progress, and self-empowerment. She emanated the energy of change, and she spread that energy, like a virus, to everyone in the room. She was, and is, a thriving human catalyst. The knowledge that she is fighting every day, regardless of the pressures, to bring other young women along with her – to rise in unison – gave me more hope than any promotional video, any fundraising gala, or any ceremonial pink-lighting of the Empire State Building ever could. Undeniably, those platforms only helped to amplify her message, and to help it spread, but every message of consequence, nonetheless, originated from her story and the stories of others like her.

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Kyle participating in the Q&A portion of the thought leadership discussion

           It is important to note that, without Plan International, this young women’s story may have easily gone unnoticed. It could have been buried, like so many other beautiful things, under those piles of sediment, where it would have struggled to touch the lives of others. Plan made sure her voice was heard. That is what Plan does so well: providing young people a seat at the table, a bullhorn in a crowded room. That support is what allows me to fuel my own endeavors, and it is why I feel a responsibility to provide others with that same support. That is why I will continue fighting for gender equality through any avenue available to me. In this way, support for change grows, and the voices of change multiply. That is the power that youth possess, and it is a force capable of moving mountains.

Apply to become Plan International USA’s newest Youth Advisory Board member TODAY!

2014 Youth Advisory Board

            2014 Youth Advisory Board

What is Plan International USA’s Youth Advisory Board?

The Youth Advisory Board (YAB) is a youth-led group that advises Plan International USA, including its Board of Directors and Executive Team. The YAB also develops projects and campaigns related to Plan’s work, including the network of teenage activists in Youth United for Global Action and Awareness (YUGA).

As a children’s rights organization with a reputation for youth involvement, it is incredibly important that we have young people like you in our leadership.We believe it is Plan’s responsibility to provide youth with a platform to provide our leadership with meaningful input and suggestions. Obtaining youth perspectives will help ensure Plan International USA implements the most inclusive and successful programs. In short, YOU are the key to our success!

What does serving on the Youth Advisory Board entail?

Youth Advisory Board (YAB) members participate in monthly meetings and contribute to Plan’s campaigns, reports, youth initiatives and programming. They also participate in advocacy with Plan at certain high-level events, like International Day of the Girl Events in NYC. Members participate in project sub-committees throughout the year and self select for those opportunities. Members communicate mostly through email, phone, and Skype, and there is an annual retreat held each winter.

Typically, members serve on the board for two years, with monthly commitments. For those members who meet group guidelines and wish to stay on, terms will be extended for an additional year. YAB members are not paid employees of Plan. This is a volunteer role. However, you can receive community service credit.

Members are also expected to:

  • Serve in an advisory role to the Executive Team, CEO, and Board of Directors
  • Give input on initiatives, such as campaigns, marketing materials, and our strategic plan
  • Serve as a liaison with peers in Plan’s other national offices (for example: Sweden, Australia, Canada, or Germany)
  • Support the roll-out of the global youth governance strategy with a goal of implementing YABs in all 50 country offices, and providing support to Plan’s other national and country offices when needed
  • Speak at meetings, conferences, and forums as needed, representing Plan and its youth governance work
  • Design/develop creative and innovative ideas for programming on the individual and institutional level
  • Serve as an ambassador when youth representatives from other Plan offices visit the United States
  • Work side-by-side with Plan staff to build upon and refresh existing youth programs
  • Represent Plan’s work in your school, university and community
International Day of the Girl 2014

International Day of the Girl 2014

Here are the qualifications we look for in our applicants!

  • Be under the age of 25
  • Be a U.S. citizen or reside in the U.S.
  • Be comfortable speaking with senior members of Plan’s staff
  • Be able to speak in public in front of groups and adults
  • Be confident and willing to freely express opinions
  • Be able to think creatively and offer solutions
  • Participate in monthly meetings via phone or Skype

Think you’re a perfect fit? This is how you can apply!

  1. Fill out the online application. Click Here to apply.
  2. Have a teacher, mentor, or coach fill out the online evaluation. Click Here for the online evaluation.
  3. Interview. After you apply, we’ll contact you in order to schedule an interview.

DEADLINE: Friday, February 27th at midnight.

Thank you so much for your interest! We look forward to reading your application.