Nearly 100 teenagers from Army communities around the world gathered last week in Massachusetts for the second annual World Wide Youth Leadership Forum, an event that fosters service leader awareness of issues faced by those growing up in a military community.
The event is sponsored by the Installation Management Command’s G9 Family and MWR Child and Youth Services.
Planning for the forum is handled by the 15-member Army Teen Panel, which serves as the “voice of Army youth” for the service branch’s senior leaders, as well as adult staff. Members of the teen panel are selected through a competitive process.
Teens attending the Youth Forum are selected by their local installations, along with a CYS staff member.
A long list of issues – presented by teenagers who had gathered input from their peers at the Army’s 68 garrisons and installations – were discussed and whittled down to the top three key points participants then presented to Army officials for potential resolution.
Last year, at the inaugural World Wide Youth Leadership Forum, the top three issues were workforce preparation, peer-to-peer communication, and collaboration between local and regional youth programs.
“In response to last year’s issues, Army programmers are offering forum sessions on career preparation, peer-to-peer communication, key elements of relationships, and programs coordinated with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Search Institute, Kids Included Together, and other organizations,” said Joseph Marton, IMCOM G9 CYS Youth Program manager.
“The teens’ issues must connect to the Army mission and have a positive impact on Soldiers and their families,” Marton said. “We emphasize leadership, citizenship and community service.”
The peer-to-peer training is designed to give the teens skills to help them communicate among themselves and with adults on topics such as depression, stress, suicide and frequent moves, he said.
“Key components of the forum will include training in the Socratic method of cooperative debate, using digital technology and learning resiliency through the arts,” Marton said.
The Youth Forum featured a sun-up to lights-out itinerary for participants. Activities included the Army’s Resiliency through the Arts program, Military Youth of the Year training, and programming for inclusion in wellness, fitness and sports.
At the end of the week, teens traveled by bus from Boston to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate, where they wrote and presented an out-brief bill. They also toured the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum to learn more about the process of citizenship, and visited the University of Massachusetts Boston campus.
After the forum, the teens returned home and are expected to brief their leadership and share the ideas, skills and knowledge gleaned from the meeting with their peers.