Marion County Commission on Youth training next generation

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I’m just a bill

Yes, I’m just a bill

And I’m sitting here on a conference committee because the House rejected the Senate amendments

Explaining Indiana’s complex legislative process to children and other civic newcomers is a bit trickier than the 50-year-old song “Schoolhouse Rock,” but it still serves as a starting point for a mural. in the office of the Marion County Commission on Youth. .

Sarah Williams, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, conceived of the “Council” as both an organizational and an educational tool. It begins with “Schoolhouse Rock”, uses post-it notes and string of different colors to indicate where various House and Senate bills of interest are in progress, and ends with a photo of Governor Eric Holcomb, signifying success, or a tombstone noting the disappearance of legislation.

Sarah Williams, Director of Public Policy for the Marion County Commission on Youth (MCCOY), stands near an interactive wall chart Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, initiated by her Indianapolis officer.  MCCOY aims to ensure that young people in central Indiana, "thrive, learn, engage and contribute." The ever-changing live graphic explains the process by which state bills become law.

The Commission has taken an active role in advocating for the needs of Indianapolis youth since its inception in the late 1980s, but it has recently stepped up training and empowerment opportunities for high school students eager to make a political impact.

“As a lobbyist working at the Statehouse, lawmakers don’t care that much, to be honest, to hear from me,” Williams said. “They want to hear from people who are really affected by these laws. If they can hear directly from young people, that’s so much more of an advocacy campaign.”

The Commission regularly organizes advocacy trainings for children and adults. Last year it hired a Director of Youth Empowerment and Engagement, whose duties include staffing a youth committee and the town hall youth leadership council — a group of 25 high school students from across the city who learn about the workings of government and advise city officials on issues affecting children.

Marion County Commission on Youth's Indianapolis office Thursday, December 9, 2021.

Williams said high school students today seek to take a much more active role in issues that directly affect them, such as climate change or gun reforms in the wake of continued school shootings. .

“If young people are given the opportunity to be in the room where these decisions are made, hopefully they can really create a lot of change and be empowered to carry that work forward as they become adults,” Williams said.

Williams hopes some students will be able to follow her as she lobbies and testifies at several hearings this year.

The Commission was established as a city-county government organization with a mission to improve the lives of Indianapolis children. It would split into an independent nonprofit in 1993, but president and executive director John Brandon said the mission remained the same.

“We actively speak for and on behalf of youth and families and their needs,” Brandon said. “We want our policymakers to know that the decisions they make have a direct impact on the well-being of young people.”

In addition to advocacy, the Commission creates an extensive annual list of after-school programs, activities, and support options for families, and it acts as a primary conduit for various youth organizations, businesses, and government entities.

Sarah Williams, Director of Public Policy for the Marion County Commission on Youth (MCCOY), sits at her desk Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, initiated by her Indianapolis officer.  MCCOY aims to ensure that young people in central Indiana, "thrive, learn, engage and contribute."

Brandon said a secondary goal is to give Indiana’s best and brightest young Hoosiers a sense of community engagement that could keep them here rather than leaving the state — which he says is a major problem for years.

What is the mission of your organization?

“I would say our mission is to ensure that every young person in our community has free and equal access to all the supports and opportunities they need, which will lead them to a successful adult life,” Brandon said. .

The Commission’s advocacy priorities in the next legislative session include support for parents and caregivers, funding for education, climate change, social justice and continuing work around adolescent mental health – a area in which she has successfully lobbied for bullying prevention and suicide awareness in the past.

How many people do you serve?

The Commission’s annual resource brochure was distributed to more than 15,000 families in Marion County this year, Brandon said. He has trained some 500 youth workers and been part of at least two dozen community initiatives and meetings.

Brandon said he hopes the commission’s brokerage and advocacy work, while harder to quantify, reaches most of Marion County’s 240,000 young people.

What is your #1 need?

“We need people to know and join us in what we are working towards,” spokeswoman Madi Gregory said.

How can people get involved?

The Commission is always looking for volunteers willing to lend their time and voice to various youth-related causes or to sit on its boards of directors, as well as monetary donations.

Donations can be done online or at 1375 W. 16th Street.

The Commission’s website has also includes a form for anyone wishing to volunteer or sit on a board of directors.

Make a difference with IndyStar: Support Season for Sharing

The shared mission of IndyStar’s Our Children initiative and the annual Season for Sharing campaign is to harness the power of journalism to make a difference in the lives of young people in central Indiana. We invite you to join us by making a financial contribution. The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust will generously match donations up to $25,000. All charitable donations are tax deductible.

This year, grants will be awarded to organizations that have gone above and beyond to serve children and families in central Indiana amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Go to indystar.com/ocdonate give online. If you prefer to send a check, please send mail to: Central Indiana Community Foundation, Attn: Our Children, 615 N. Alabama St., Suite 300, Indianapolis, IN 46204. You can also make a donation by sending “SHARE” to 80888.

Rory Appleton is the pop culture reporter at IndyStar. Reach him at 317-552-9044 and [email protected], or follow him on Twitter at @RoryDoesPhonics.

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