Youth Link’s Youth Involvement Conference

On April 27, 2012, the City of Bellevue’s Youth Link hosted the biennial, city-wide “Youth Involvement Conference (YIC)”. Approximately 225 middle and high school students attended the day-long event, in which youth participated in skill development workshops, heard from elected officials and identified Bellevue’s top youth priorities. The 2012 Youth Involvement Conference was co-sponsored by America’s Promise/100 Best Communities for Young People and was an open invitation to middle and high school students living and/or attending school in the Bellevue School District. This year’s conference “Stand Up, Speak Out, Break Thru!” epitomized the thinking of the student-led YIC Planning Committee, who wanted to encourage teens to get involved and act. The conference inspired students to identify youth needs and issues while actively creating solutions by being involved in the current community agenda. For many students YIC is their first introduction to conference type learning and civic engagement.

Stand Up, Speak Out, Break Thru” Conference highlighted Chirag Ved and Kevin Vu, seniors from Bellevue High School and Interlake High School, respectively, as conference keynoters. Both Chirag and Kevin lead their own non-profits for youth and teens, helping young people connect to volunteer services and providing needed resources to low-income students. In addition to the youth keynoters, Adam Fletcher, president of CommonAction, served as the conference emcee. Twelve workshops were offered including Microsoft Technology, youth start up projects, financial management and youth philanthropy. Mayor Conrad Lee welcomed students with heartfelt, inspiring comments in the morning. The afternoon sessions kicked off a lively discussion with Washington State Representatives Ross Hunter and Marcie Maxwell and School Board member Chris Marks. The elected officials engaged students regarding upcoming issues for the State and Bellevue School District.

The highlight of YIC was the voting process on issues most important to teens. Students discussed topics–Education, Employment, Health, Safety, Recreation, and Transportation—to determine what type of changes they would like to see. Conference attendees came up with nearly 60 ideas for community solutions, including smaller school classes, school credit for physical activities, a graffiti wall and wider sidewalks for bikes. The entire list is submitted to the Youth Link Board for review and then presented to the Bellevue City Council for approval. As one YIC attendee commented, “Thanks for inviting me and thanks for a great inspiring conference and a great lunch!”

Youth Link is a youth leadership program and a partnership between the City of Bellevue and Bellevue School District. This summer, Youth Link will join Eastside Pathways in establishing an “Eastside Pathways Action Team” for youth and teens. Youth Link is the parent program for the City Manager-appointed Youth Link Board, the Bellevue Youth Council and has created numerous award winning programs, including Bellevue Skate Park, Ground Zero Teen Center, Bellevue Youth Court, and Bellevue Teen Closet. For more information, please see www.youthlink.comor call 425.452.5254.