The Youth Council is a group of young leaders from the parish, ages 13-19, who meet monthly September through June, to organize open youth outreach events, and to review and make recommendations to parish staff about youth program activities. New members are recommended by their peers, and take part in an orientation as well as a retreat experience held each November designed to reflect on pertinent topics of the experience of youth in the neighborhood and to set direction for the year to come. The central goal is “Creating Neighborhood Peace.”Another goal is addressing underage drinking through a teen-driven local media campaign.
The Mission Statement of the Youth Council states: “The Youth Council of Holy Cross-Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish serves the children and youth of the Back of the Yards community. As individual youth, we are committed to volunteer in different activities of the parish. At our meetings together, we plan activities and carry them out, to bring youth together, giving them a positive view of life, and something to do with their time.
“In order to do this, each of us is committed to be role models and mentors for others. Our example forces others our age to think about what they are doing. We want to be respectful and committed toward others, treating them as if they are no less a person than us. Above all, we want to show other youth that being violent, disrespectful, and rude, is NOT the way to be. We believe that our efforts will make this community a better one for us all.”
Beyond the Youth Council itself, every youth activity promotes leadership development in its own way. Within each activity, be it a group at Casa Romero, a mentoring group, or the marimba ensemble, youth who are committed take on increasingly significant responsibilities. In recent years, the promotion of positive leadership development of the older teens has become a priority for us. Younger teens and children naturally look up to older teens as role models. All too often in our neighborhood, this means being guided by youth on the streets, involved in gang life. We know there are many more youth who work hard to get an education, and respect others. Unfortunately, they are often “hidden” from the view of younger teens and children. Our growing effort is to have these positive youth role models become more visible in healthy community activities.