Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Nominate a Young Female Social Entrepreneur for the Gladys Marinelli Coccia Award

As my last post may have hinted, I'm always excited to see awards recognizing young people's meaningful contributions to their communities. This kind of recognition is important because it helps to highlight otherwise unseen stories of success, acknowledges the unique contributions that young people can make, and inspires others to engage in working for a better world.

Youth Service America has just launched the first annual Gladys Marinelli Coccia Awards to recognize two young female social entrepreneurs, ages 14 to 17, whose initiatives serve the common good. The awards have been created to honor the memory of Gladys Coccia, who started her entrepreneurial career as a 15-year old girl living in West Virginia and later became a very successful businesswoman in Washington, DC.

The award includes:
* $2000 for the social enterprise
* Travel and registration to YSA’s Youth Service Institute
* Serve as a spokesperson for YSA’s initiatives
* Invitation to serve on the executive board of Girls Helping Girls
* Access to YSA’s resources to support and expand social enterprise

Girls who meet the following criteria are eligible for the award:
* Between the ages of 14 and 17 on December 31, 2009.
* Located in the United States. Special consideration will be given to nominees located in West Virginia and Metro Washington DC.
* Have her own social enterprise.
* Be supported by contributions of at least $1000 (cash and/or in-kind).
* Have a business plan, including an itemized budget

The deadline to begin an online nomination is June 15 and the deadline to complete a nomination is June 30. To access the eligibility quiz and the nomination form, visit or email

Monday, May 11, 2009

2009 Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Youth Advocates of the Year

A colleague of mine used to direct the youth advocacy program at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and I've worked with enough of the past recipients of the Youth Advocates of the Year Awards to recognize that the contributions of young people to the tobacco control field are unique, highly creative, and extremely critical. Since the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' 13th Annual Youth Advocate of the Year Awards Gala was held last week at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, DC, I'd like to briefly highlight the 2009 recipients of this great program. "The Youth Advocates of the Year Awards honor the outstanding work of young advocates who have taken the lead in holding the tobacco industry accountable for their efforts to market their products to youth." The 2009 National Youth Advocate of the Year is Emily Kile, 17, of Greenfield, IN, who is active with Indiana's youth-led movement against the tobacco industry. The 2009 Group Winner is REAL: Hawaii Youth Movement Exposing the Tobacco Industry, which works through peer to peer marketing and grassroots mobilization. The powerful work of these national winners is also mirrored in the efforts of the 2009 Regional Youth Advocates of the Year. With almost 90% of U.S. smokers starting the habit before age 18, these young advocates are reaching their peers across the country with a strong anti-industry message at a critical point. They're "kicking butt!"

Monday, May 4, 2009

We are the ones Minnesota has been waiting for

Reflecting on a statement (below) I drafted for the Citizens League Action Group on Poverty and Public Leadership in September 2007, the importance of engaging young people as our state deficit looms in excess of $4.6 billion and the need for social services continue to skyrocket, seems as relevant as ever. We're on the other side of Minnesota's Sesquicentennial now, but we still have much work before us to ensure that the next 150 years are as successful as many consider the previous.

As Minnesota approaches its 150th anniversary as a state, emphasis on the historic social innovation and civic engagement of its residents asserts the importance of these same skills and community relationships to further advance the state’s growth in coming years.

With numerous demographic shifts anticipated in coming years, young people will be increasingly tapped to take positions of leadership as baby boomers retire, as growing in-migration requires more culturally competent and multi-lingual leaders, and as more intractable problems demand new and technologically-savvy solutions. We need to expose, train, and develop civically engaged young leaders.

Today’s social issues affect multiple players across varying sectors. This increasingly requires cross-sectoral approaches, bringing together government, private, and non-profit sectors. As the driving force for change and innovation in today and tomorrow’s society, young Minnesotans will need to be able to leverage the power of public policy in their own lives and careers. Heightened awareness of the non-profit sector throughout young adulthood can highlight the importance of civic participation, even as young people enter careers in business, government, trades, or other sectors.

Equipping young leaders with the appropriate framework and tools for engaging with and problem-solving in their communities will be critical to ensuring Minnesota’s development and future success. No more fitting leadership development opportunities exist than the current obstacles faced at the state legislature, in neighborhoods, schools, reservations, businesses, or in Minnesota’s lakes, streams, and rivers. A healthy, well-educated, competitive, just, and thriving Minnesota depends on the input and participation of young people, which, in turn, must be supported and encouraged by community members and current leaders. While often the catalysts for or recipients of public policy measures, young people are not asked frequently enough for their ideas or solutions to the problems they daily face. In spite of this, young Minnesotans are beginning to develop a concern for their communities and an understanding of their individual abilities to serve and invest.

As young Minnesotans, we can no longer wait for some appointed time to reach out and serve our communities. Today’s problems will only grow increasingly complex as we age, and we have learned in our short time that change takes a long time. We can’t depend on other generations to create the Minnesota we envision for our families and children. We are the ones Minnesota has been waiting for.
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