In Oklahoma, there are very few statewide opportunities for school-age children to learn leadership development and other life skills, such as how to properly do an interview, how to learn personal fiscal responsibility and how they can make a difference in the actions of their government.
The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy is preparing a series of symposiums to help pinpoint youth from different demographics and train them in many of these skills. We are seeking partnerships with several other advocacy organizations that deal directly with these isolated demographics to help recruit Oklahoma youngsters. Through these partnerships, we hope to reach several hundred young Oklahomans annually and improve their lives and increase their opportunities for a successful future.
OK-LEAD, or Oklahoma Kids – Leadership Engagement Advocacy Development, will allow Oklahoma students entering their junior year the opportunity to apply for a symposium to help them learn critical skills which will benefit through the rest of their lives. Multiple symposiums will be held over the summer months or specific times in the calendar year to reach young Oklahomans through the prepared curriculum.
The number symposiums will be based on the availability of funds to properly hold the program and the willingness of partner organizations to assist in the endeavor. OICA will initially attempt to hold seven different symposiums through spring break and the summer months of 2018. The demographic groups will consist of foster youth, children in the care of the Office of Juvenile Affairs, Native American youth, African American youth, Latino Youth, LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning) youth, and an open enrollment symposium to allow any children to apply. As additional resources become available, it is our hope to hold more symposiums to reach a larger number of Oklahoma youth.
The symposiums will hold a uniform schedule for most of the three day seminar, will some slight modifications addressing each segment attending. The intent of the program is to bring together a group of students, ranging in number from 25 to 100, and leading them through three days of development in leadership skills, advocacy training, educational attainment, etiquette, history of our state, debate and interview skills, the legislative process and mandatory attendance with a community service project.
OICA will work with consultants in each of the fields to help provide the best training to the attendees. We will work with volunteers and staff members to oversee the various workshops and the overall symposium, all of whom will be background checked and every effort will be made to ensure the safety of the children attending the symposium.
Through our research, we have not been able to find a program which specifically works to enhance the lives through this manner with most of the demographics we have isolated. There are no programs available in this manner to foster youth or children under the care of the Office of Juvenile Affairs. There is no program in the nation which works with all the tribal governments located within their home state to bring together youth from each of the nations to learn from one another in this manner. The LGBTQ community has had grant money to develop a similar program in the past, but staffing capacity has limited further outreach. We
also hope to partner with organizations within the Latino and African American communities to expand their scope statewide to bring youth from all over Oklahoma to learn together.
Research into other youth programs has shown a need for the various categories which we wish to hold workshops to educate the participants. The schedule will go as follows:
Registration, lunch and ice-breaker sessions
Discussions on citizenship and state history (rotating)
Workshop on debate skills
Dinner, with a leadership speaker
Evening discussions on anti-bullying and race equity (rotating)
Discussions on personal finance and interview skills (rotating)
Lunch, with a motivational speaker
A community service project
Dinner, with time for the students to interact
A fun activity for the evening
Tour of the State Capitol
Legislative process workshop
Lunch and graduation from the program
The various workshops will be presented by local experts in the field. It is our hope to curb many of the costs by keeping the facilitators local and using uniform materials for each symposium.
The calendar year will be important for when each symposium will be held. We will attempt to find a relevant time in which to bring students together to allow for the increased awareness of their specific symposium.
It is our goal to hold the foster youth symposium in March, or over Spring Break, so as to allow interaction with the students and legislators. This will be an attempt to advocate for the need for support for foster youth services in the state from policymakers so they can hear from these students directly about the impact on their lives. We will work with the Department of Human Services to find foster youth and parents who will allow the students to participate in this symposium. We also will make certain this symposium does not overlap with the week the House Page Program brings in foster youth.
The tribal youth symposium will be held in early June, so as to overlap with the Sovereignty Symposium. We hope the community service project will be tied into assisting with the gathering of tribal leaders and allow interaction of the youth with their elected and appointed officials from the 39 nations located in Oklahoma.
The African American youth symposium will also be held in the middle of June so as to participate in Juneteenth events located around the State Capitol and provide support for the holiday efforts through the established community service time.
The LGBTQ youth symposium will be the final June symposium to overlap with PRIDE month events occurring towards the end of the month. It is our intention to find some community service event to assist Freedom Oklahoma, the organization currently expressing interest in supporting our effort.
We hope to partner with the Greater Oklahoma City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to develop some type of community service event in July. We will work with their leadership to pinpoint an area where the most good could be accomplished and help provide support to their community.
July will also be the month we will work with the Office of Juvenile Affairs to hold workshops within their state facilities with support from their staff to work with students in their care. This will be the only symposium not held at a site hotel in Oklahoma City as we will need to work within their facilities with the youth designated by them.
The final symposium, the open application gathering, will also be held in July or early August.
Parameters for the application process are still in development, but will take into consideration the needs of the students and we will work to address such issues as cost and transportation in helping students attend each symposium. Sponsors will be allowed to contribute anonymously to scholarships for the students who are unable to afford the entire cost of attending a symposium.