WE ARE GLAD YOU’RE HERE! WELCOME! WE OFFER YOU OUR THANKS AND SUPPORT.
Large spiritual communities like General Assembly can be powerful, life-changing, and deeply meaningful. These opportunities cannot happen, however, without the help of Sponsors.
For in-person attendance, a youth's sponsor serves as their legal guardian for the duration of General Assembly (GA). The sponsor may be a parent, relative, minister, youth advisor, religious educator, or another person trusted by the youth’s full legal guardian(s). Youth are responsible for finding their own sponsors.
Sponsors are responsible for the safety, health, and well-being of the youth you are sponsoring at all times throughout GA. Supervision at GA is different from other conferences with a youth presence. At other conferences, adult advisors share collective responsibility for youth supervision. At GA, the number of youth and the urban setting make this impossible.
At GA, each youth registrant (including those 18 years old) must have an adult sponsor also registered and present at GA who is responsible for supervision and insuring the well-being of the youth. A sponsor must:
be 25 years or older;
be the sponsor of no more than 3 youth;
agree to the same Participant Covenant as the youth;
stay in the same hotel/housing as the youth they are sponsoring.
As a Sponsor You Are Agreeing To
Provide supervision for the youth you are sponsoring at General Assembly.
Meet twice daily (minimum) with the youth for whom you are responsible.
Attend the mandatory GA Youth Orientation and required sponsor training on Wednesday (makeup orientations available Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning).
Be available in case of medical emergency as legal guardian.
Stay in the same hotel/housing as the youth for whom you are responsible.
Be supportive and encouraging of full youth participation in the greater General Assembly community.
Be the first and final authority on disciplinary issues for the youth.
Supervision of Youth
Sponsors are ultimately responsible for the behavior and supervision of their respective youth at GA. GA Youth staff and UUA staff are responsible for providing youth programming and support at GA, but not supervision.
If a youth you are sponsoring violates the Participant Covenant you and they signed, breaks a rule or law or chooses not to abide by the covenant we will co-create at General Assembly, a committee will be convened to determine a course of action. Actions may include a re-commitment strategy of which the sponsor would be part, or sending the youth home at their own expense. In such an event, the sponsor is responsible for discipline, including safely getting the youth home, if necessary.
The Ideal Sponsor Supports Their Youth in the Following Ways
Meets with youth and youth’s parent/legal guardian prior to General Assembly and discusses code of ethics, supervision expectations, and schedule for checking-in with family.
Works out a meeting schedule and emergency contact plan with youth and parent/guardian throughout the Assembly.
Insures that youth travels safely to and from GA (by traveling with youth!), and helps youth get settled in hotel room/housing at General Assembly.
Takes youth out for a meal every day.
Attends some youth events with their youth (workshops, worships, etc).
Calls parent/guardian in the middle of General Assembly to let them know that everything is fine.
GA Youth Sponsor Coordinators’ Role
The Sponsor Coordinators are your primary contacts for GA Youth and they support you in your role as Sponsor. At least one Sponsor Coordinator will be at each GA Youth-sponsored activity if you need to check in. Along with GA Chaplains and UUA staff, they will support your youth if something happens to you.
Sponsor Coordinators Are Charged with
Being available through social media in advance of GA,
Providing an Orientation to GA Youth and sponsors on Wednesday,
Supporting sponsors in upholding the GA Youth Covenant created at GA and the Participant Covenant signed prior to GA,
Welcoming adults into the GA Youth space and programming,
Offering reassurance to sponsors and fielding concerns about youth-related programming,
Assisting in re-connecting if you have lost contact with your youth.
In the event of a youth emergency, we will work with you, the UUA staff, and the appropriate emergency teams to manage the situation.
Traveling with Youth
It is the policy of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries that youth and their sponsors must stay in the same lodging during General Assembly. We also strongly encourage sponsors to follow their individual congregation’s Safe Congregations Policy when making travel and housing arrangements. Sponsors or families seeking further guidance can find helpful suggestions in this UUA Central East Region Youth in Hotels document.
Prepare for GA
In order to have the best GA experience possible, you and your youth should get to know each other and develop a plan. Before you come to GA, take some time to talk things through so that your expectations of each other are clear. Review the GA schedule and Program Book together. We recommend that youth, sponsors, and parents/guardians create and sign their own written “Agreement” together, which includes expectations for both youth and sponsor roles, responsibilities, and limits. Please refer to our sample agreement for some items to discuss in advance, such as curfew, expectations for program attendance, and how often you will check in with one another throughout the day.
We also recommend that each congregation ask parents to sign a Permission to Treat form and consider if they want to sign a Youth Guardianship Form. Here are examples:
The First Day of GA
Attend the mandatory GA Youth and Sponsor Orientation on Wednesday (check the program book for the time)! This is where you will meet the GA Youth Sponsor Coordinators as well as all of the other GA Youth staff. Orientation is the place to get any last-minute questions answered. Make-up GA Youth and Sponsor Orientations are scheduled for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday morning for youth and sponsors arriving after Wednesday. If you arrive after Wednesday’s orientation, please ask the person at check in what time make up youth/sponsor orientations are. Please attend the first orientation available to you after your arrival, as this is where you will receive vital information for having a fun and safe General Assembly experience.
Look around! Help your youth get oriented to the convention center and where it is in relation to your housing. Review the ground rules and safety information. Stock up on snacks for you and your youth. Take a deep breath! This is going to be an AWESOME WEEK!!!
Safety and Curfew
Unlike some cities where General Assembly is held, Pittsburgh does not currently have a legal curfew for minors. But just because there's no legal requirement for youth to be accompanied by a guardian after hours or "home" by a certain time does not mean we condone youth staying up and out late. We strongly encourage youth and sponsors to decide on a reasonable curfew for the week and stick to it. Please note that despite the lack of curfew, police may still choose to stop people and that those of us who are people of color, queer and/or disabled are at higher risk for negative or dangerous experiences with law enforcement.
Programming at General Assembly tends to run until 9:00 pm every night. We recommend that sponsors meet youth to accompany them back to their hotel/lodging after General Assembly programming each night.