Prologue: The Midland Area Youth Action Council is an initiative of Midland Area Communtiy Foundation that has been empowering young people for nearly 30 years. The Youth Action Council provides middle and high school students with the opportunity to learn how to be effective philanthropists by making grants to local nonprofit organizations that benefit youth in the Midland area. Through hands-on experiences and mentorship, students learn valuable skills such as leadership, teamwork, and decision-making while also giving back to their community. The Youth Action Council is committed to creating a generation of young people who are engaged, thoughtful, and committed to making a positive impact in the world around them.
“The Midland Area Youth Action Council serves as the youth branch of the Midland Area Community Foundation. We’re a philanthropic group of sixth through 12th graders that does work through grantmaking and volunteering. We give out grant funding to local organizations, teachers, adults, and students working to improve the lives of local youth.
30 to 40 students meet once a month—and we’re constantly growing! To join, it’s pretty simple: on the Community Foundation website is an application that we use to get to know more about people who are interested. They fill that application out and attend a meeting. After they attend their first meeting, they’re officially voting members and can participate.
One of the things we have in the Youth Action Council is a project committee, and every year they’re given a $5,000 budget to make an impact in our community. Students get to discuss what they want to do, and then they come to the Council and pitch their ideas. This year, we are working to create care packages for Shelterhouse. The committee has done some very detailed work on finding what products to put in these care packages. Recently, we went on a shopping trip to Costco to get supplies, and soon we’ll deliver the care packages to Shelterhouse.
In a previous year, we did the “Change Mural” by Circle Auto Parts: putting out a call to artists and being really hands-on in the process. Last year, we worked on a community garden at Creative 360, where we planted plants and then donated the food to the Bridge Food Center.
I initially joined the Youth Action Council because my dad described the group to me back in middle school as being ‘kind of like Shark Tank’: kids pitch their ideas and request money to accomplish them. I thought that was interesting, but I didn’t join because I didn’t know anyone on the committee. But then I was at cross country practice one day and heard one of my friends talking about being involved in the Council, and that’s what got me to join.
After I joined, I found myself looking up to the Council’s officers—it was cool to see young people in leadership roles. I wanted to be a role model for future kids, and that became something I wanted to take on.
This is actually my third year being an officer, and we have an election process for our officers. At the end of every year, any student can run for an officer position: the four core positions are the president, vice president, grants chair, and the secretary. The most recent additions are the public relations officer, a role that was created to give us a better social media presence, create press releases for the newspapers, and get the youth more involved in the communications process. Then we also have our inclusivity chairs, and they run a separate committee from the full council dedicated to efforts of promoting inclusion in our community.
Our advisory members are constantly looking for ways to get youth voices heard in our community by enabling students to sit on various boards. As officers, we have the opportunity to attend the Board of Trustee meetings for the Community Foundation. I have a friend who’s on the Health and Human Services Board. Back in 2021, the community did a survey on broadband access, and they asked me to sit on that to serve as a voice for the youth. We take ourselves and this process very seriously, and sometimes we hear that adults are nervous to come talk to us! So, it’s a fun way for us to hold that decision-making power, and great to see that Midland is really seeking ways to get youth more involved in the community.
I’m involved in other various extracurriculars, and I often say I would not be where I was in those organizations without the Youth Action Council. I think it’s really helped me to become more involved, articulate my ideas, and equipped me to take other leadership positions by preparing me with real-life skills. It’s helped me with my interview process for college. It’s helped me communicate effectively. It’s helped me in understanding what different organizations are looking for.
I think the Youth Action Council teaches you skills you can use anywhere for the rest of your life and enlightens you to the importance of community: the community inside the Youth Council itself and in the rest of the community here in Midland.”
– Amelia Hatfield, President of the Midland Area Youth Action Council