The Youth Advisory Council is the “next generation” component of the Sanilac County Community Foundation, comprised of high school student-leaders representing each school district in Sanilac County. YAC is an integral part of Foundation functions, and contributes in grantmaking, volunteering, and raising awareness around community issues.
Although each school district approaches the selection process differently, in one form or another, each student involved in YAC is nominated based on leadership qualities and their dedication to give back. In all, an average number of 50 students participate in YAC each year, meeting each month school is in session. It is the intention of SCCF that each member of the Youth Advisory Council leaves just as impacted as the impact they generated during their service. One effort is by awarding scholarships to each member upon graduating high school.
YAC keeps busy throughout the school year, engaging in several annual activities as well as periodically taking on new projects:
- Grantmaking- this is perhaps the most important function of the Council, as they are responsible for issuing grant award dollars to non-profit applicants within the community who have a plan to enhance the lives of its young person population.
- Needs Assessment Survey- every other year, as a mandatory function of SCCF, YAC issues a survey to every high school student in the county to identify and address the most critical issues challenging the young people of Sanilac County. This data is used to decide where grant funding dollars are best spent to tackle those issues. Some top categories have been teen pregnancy, bullying, underage drinking, peer pressure, and access to activities.
- Cardboard City- the annual event staged on the courthouse lawn each spring raises between $14,000 and $21,000 to benefit Eva’s Place (a battered women/children refuge in Sanilac County) and a county-wide homelessness prevention initiative. 150-300 students gather for a (usually chilly) night to sleep in cardboard boxes in the center of Sandusky. Business donations and pledges are gathered, and later distributed back into the community.
- Collaboration- on numerous occasions in its history, YAC has partnered with other agencies, non-profits and groups to help them achieve their project goals and ensuring those efforts are successful. Notably, YAC: worked with a several groups to take a stance against underage drinking; helped preserved the stories of numerous World War II veterans in the community, and assist in making holidays special for foster and underprivileged families each year.
- Christmas Parade Support- in efforts to both support the festive parade and gain exposure, YAC builds a lighted parade float each year showcasing an effort they’ve made to enhance the community.
- Necessity Drives- periodically throughout the year, YAC will hold food drives, clothing and toiletry drives, and toy drives to give to those in need in Sanilac County.
- Education/Advocacy- in addition to all the good works they do, YAC members attend continuing education classes and conferences that allow for information exchange and an open space to brainstorm and creatively address key issues in the community. They also advocate good works in each of their respective schools by being student-leaders and setting good examples for others to follow, along with opportunities to get involved.
As a result of the good works performed, YAC has built an impressive trophy case- although that achievement has never been a focal point of the Council.
- 100 Best Communities for Young People, 2008- YAC was a key component in securing Sanilac County’s bid to be named one of the country’s best communities for young people to grow up in. Of thousands of applicants nationwide, Sanilac County made the list selected by America’s Promise Alliance, an organization founded by General Colin and Alma Powell.
- Award of Excellence from Michigan State Legislature for outstanding works performed in Sanilac County.
- Individual- apart from being excellent as a whole, many members of YAC garner awards and achievements of their own, including valedictorian and salutatorian honors, full-ride scholarships to top universities, and sports accomplishments to name a few.
- Many students who participated in YAC have gone on to start businesses, join the military, continue their education, and remain involved with the Community Foundation.