By Casey Jones, Programs for Young Leaders staff
Every year the world celebrates International Youth Day on 12 August. Established by the United Nations in 1999, International Youth Day is an opportunity to spotlight youth issues and celebrate young leaders as essential partners in addressing the challenges of today’s world.
With over 350,000 young leaders participating globally in Interact, Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA), and Rotary Youth Exchange (RYE) each year, Rotary’s youth champions have a lot to celebrate this International Youth Day! At Rotary, we are committed to empowering young leaders as critical partners in driving meaningful and positive change across local and global communities. Our first-ever Interact Advisory Council, formed in 2021 to amplify youth voice within Rotary, has now been expanded into the Youth Advisory Council to represent all Rotary youth programs! The Council’s diverse membership of current youth participants, recent alumni, Rotarian and Rotaractor mentors, and a Rotary International Director liaison are driven by a commitment to improve Rotary youth programming, advance youth voice, champion positive youth-adult partnerships, and provide recommendations directly to the Rotary International Board of Directors to shape the future of Rotary’s youth programs.
But what is youth voice? It is the inclusion of the ideas, thoughts, and actions of young people. It’s a recognition that young people must have a key role in the decision-making process for those things that affect and shape their lives. It is the belief that effective youth-adult partnerships engage an awareness that adults and youth have something to contribute and learn from each other. These partnerships require active listening, being flexible and honest with each other, and being open to youth and adult cultural differences. Hannah Shin, Surabhi Pandey, and Alberto Domenighini are three former and current Council members who believe that Rotary and Rotaract club collaborations with youth increase the impact of their service projects and develop youth into leaders. Get inspired by these three champions of youth voice:
An Interact leader for six years, Hannah Shin served on the inaugural Rotary International Interact Advisory Council in 2021-22 and led as the Vice Chair in 2022-23. Hannah has advocated for the value of youth voice across various Rotary events, including co-facilitating a breakout session at the 2023 International Convention in Melbourne, Australia. Because of the multiple opportunities to share her voice, being welcomed by Rotarians into the Rotary community, and the opportunity to develop international friendships, Hannah sees Interact as the start of her lifelong Rotary journey. Her advice for fostering positive youth-adult partnerships? “Know how to recognize when a community values you and how to convince a space to value you if it doesn’t already.”
Surabhi currently represents Interact on the 2023-24 Rotary International Youth Advisory Council and served on the Interact Advisory Council in 2022-23. Surabhi has demonstrated her passion for service locally and internationally, having organized and led projects related to COVID-19 relief and food security in the U.S., water accessibility in Honduras, and human-trafficking prevention in India. Speaking from experience, Surabhi says that “sometimes, in order to create that youth-adult partnership, it takes some work to bridge that gap.” How did she do it? By serving as an Interact District Council representative to coordinate between District 5170 Rotary clubs and their sponsored Interact clubs. By serving as a “middle person” between clubs, Surabhi was able to foster relationships that increased communication and involvement between young leaders and Rotarians.
Alberto Domenighini is an alumnus of Rotary’s youth programs and is currently serving his second consecutive term as a dual-member Rotarian/Rotaractor mentor on the Youth Advisory Council. A native of the Italian Alps, Alberto participated in Rotary Youth Exchange in 2013-2014 where he traveled to Texas, USA. Inspired by his experiences, Alberto decided to commit to Rotary. He says “The more I’ve given back, the more I’ve received. I’ve met great Rotarians and, as I got back from Exchange, I was encouraged to join the local Rotaract club…and later, the Rotary club. What I found is a world of possibilities.”
Did you miss Hannah, Surabhi, and Alberto’s webinar, Expanding Reach: Partnering with Youth in Service? Go in-depth and learn how to apply the concepts of youth voice and positive adult-youth partnerships. And when you’re ready to elevate youth voice through the creation of your own district or zone-level youth advisory council, download our foundational guide!