“The first and last requirement for a successful youth program in a Unitarian church is a profound belief in the competence and good faith on young people. They are doing first-rate thinking. They have a seriousness of spirit which often outstrips that of their elders, and they will work with astonishing vigor on a program when they believe it will make a real difference in their own lives, and in the life of their community.” ~Reverend Stephen Fritchman, 1941
The program staff with the Lifespan Faith Engagement office have, in collaboration with the current GA youth and young adult (YaYA) staff teams, composed a new staffing and program structure for next year. There is going to be a shift from pre-planned to emergent programming, with YaYA GA staff members trained up so they are ready to facilitate on the fly, and can be responsive to what is happening at General Assembly in real time. There will no longer be single individuals in a project management role serving as Youth Deans. We are moving to a horizontal leadership structure; instead of planning workshops, the general assembly youth and young adult staff will be heavily involved in team collaboration and training in preparation for the event. Also, the staff members themselves, will be selected from among their own peers at general assembly, rather than by UUA staff members via an application over the internet.
This staffing structure was planned out with the goal of youth/YA empowerment, which goes beyond a simple seat at the table, but requires transformation in how we empower young people to make decisions for their own communities. Having young people democratically select their staff at General Assembly itself, with community engagement being a key piece of the selection process, will connect our YaYA GA staff teams to a much larger community of young people who know them than our original process has been able to do. In the spirit of the responsive resolution passed at General Assembly in 2020 asking for expanded resourcing on young people, the COIC report calling for the same, and the requests made by the youth and young adult general assembly staff teams in 2020, we hope that this new structure can support youth and young adult GA staff to build creating meaningful, communities of care rooted in solidarity.
Institutional change is a long term process, that requires continuous good faith actions both inside and outside these (virtual) walls of the UUA. The move to emergent programming offers space to build relationships between youth/young adults and the General Assembly decision makers. While we are cognizant that we do not want to set the GA staff up to be de-facto representatives to the association, growing intergenerational partnerships inside the institution, especially among adults who do not typically work with youth, is a step towards bringing the needs of young folks to the forefront.
We recognize this change requires more people to spend more time at General Assembly for this to work. We need voters and community builders, as well as potential candidates to run for the next year’s YaYA GA staff. Sometimes, being on staff is the only way youth or young adults have been able to attend General Assembly. With that in mind, the Youth and Young Adult Scholarship Committee is working on making General Assembly more accessible. Expect to hear more in January!
I hope that you come to our Town Hall, where Reverend Sara Green, Reverend Stevie Carmody, and myself will be going over the staffing structure and selection process in greater detail. This will be held on October 29th, at 6 PM central time. You can find a link to registration here.