Fairfax County Youth Leadership Program (FCYLP) - About The Program


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About The Program


The Fairfax County Youth Leadership Program is designed to educate and motivate high school students to become engaged citizens and leaders in the community. The Program was established to reach the next generation of citizens and to increase and enhance positive public awareness, participation in local government, and exploration of careers in public service. During a one year period, the program includes a series of monthly sessions about County government, work assignments related to each sessions, a summer internship in a County agency and a presentation to 8th grade civics students.

The goal of this initiative is to inspire young people to become citizens who will share their ideas and bring their energy to local government to help develop solutions to issues communities will face in the next century.

Need for the Program
In the 1999-2000 school year, Fairfax County Government initiated a pioneering effort with Fairfax County Public Schools to educate young people about their local government. The “Closest to the People” program of studies was developed to fill an existing gap in curriculum by providing a new curriculum for high school seniors designed to help them understand the link between local government and their everyday lives. For the first time, students learn in the classroom and through activities how their local government works, the services that are offered through the various County departments, and the opportunities for participating in local government as a citizen and in public service as a career. Traditionally, school curriculum focuses on federal and state governments only. Students receive little direct information or exposure to the government that most impacts their daily lives - their local government.

In its second year, the “Closest to the People” curriculum was expanded and adapted for middle school students. In addition, the Youth Leadership Program (YLP) was inaugurated as a component of the “Closest to the People” initiative. "Closest to the People" and the Youth Leadership Program was designed to educate the County’s next generation of citizens about their local government and to create a self-perpetuating circle of information between county agencies, high school students and middle schools students.

Description of Program
The Youth Leadership Program takes students from the classroom into County workplaces and into the community and provides student/interns the opportunity to observe and meet the people who influence policy and make decisions. Students also have the opportunity to interact with county government leaders and policy-makers.

Preparation for the Youth Leadership Program begins in November when applications are received and from all County high schools. Applicants are chosen from each of the 25 high schools by a selection committee of Fairfax County Public School teachers and County government personnel. Criteria include standard measurements of high school success and an interest in government issues.

Each High School selects a teacher sponsor to support the student during the program. The program begins in January and concludes the following December, therefore students enter as high school juniors and complete the program in their senior year. Students and their sponsors attend the first session in January with the County Executive, sponsoring leaders from the Department of Management and Budget, sponsoring school district personnel and the Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. This meeting, like each of the monthly meetings that follow includes a series of activities which are designed around thematic areas presented in the “Closet to the People” program of studies and the full range of County services. Activities consist of seminars, workshops, presentations by County staff, as well as interactive lessons and debates, cooperative learning experiences, and visits to County facilities. Activities take place at the Government Center and other off-campus locations and typically occur after school hours.

Following each session students must complete a work assignment. For example, following the first session, students are asked to meet with the member of the governing Board of Supervisors representing their County district. Students compose questions that reflect their districts concerns and interview their Supervisor. Information garnered through these meetings is often shared by the students in internet chat rooms as well as discussed at monthly sessions.

In addition to participation in the monthly sessions, each student is required to complete a three-week paid internship in a Fairfax County agency. The goal of the internship is to expose students to the inner workings of County government and to experience the policy-making process on a daily basis. Students are placed in a variety of sites throughout the county including the County Executive’s Office, the Circuit Court, Department of Information Technology, County Attorney, Department of Family Services, Fire and Rescue, Health Department, Housing and Community Development, Recreation Services, Park Authority, Public Affairs, Office of the Sheriff, Department of Transportation, Consumer Protection, Human Resources, and the Wastewater Treatment Facility.

In October, program participants venture out as “ambassadors” for the program to speak to middle school civics classes in their high school’s pyramid. Their presentation is on local government’s role in their everyday lives and their experience in this program. They encourage younger students to learn more about “where they live” and to become active citizens, regardless of age. These presentations also offer participants the opportunity to use technology and develop or sharpen public speaking skills.

Use of Technology
The Fairfax County Youth Leadership Program has a website which is linked to both the Fairfax County Government website and the Fairfax County Public Schools website. The website has general information about meetings, calendars, directions for upcoming meetings, and assignments for students. Samples of student work will soon become available on the website. Students use internet communication with the county sponsor and teacher coordinator of the program as well as with one another. Students use email or chat rooms to discuss reactions to meetings, issues, and plans.

“Closest to the People” has its own website for local government curricula, interactive government lessons and simulations. It is connected to both the County and the public school system as well.

Results
A large measure of the success of this program is the number of citizens reached. Fairfax County government is a full-service operation providing a broad range of direct services to its population of almost one million citizens. The Youth Leadership Program introduces students to the wide range of services being provided and work being done by their local government and presents to the students the challenges faced in their own community. Participants are able to share this knowledge with their parents, friends and neighbors. Each participating student presents what they have learned to up to 100 middle school students and teachers, as well as 100 - 300 high school students each, totaling nearly 8,000 citizens. Communication about local government has been significantly improved. In addition, teacher sponsors share information with their High Schools concerning County programs, services and resources. School curriculums have been expanded with the “Closest to the People” website providing interactive government teaching activities and lesson plans and past youth leadership participants have even continued to work beyond their internship period in various County agencies in a voluntary capacity.


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