Over 400 Club teens raised their voices to advocate for key issues with members of Congress during BGCA’s annual Summit for America’s Youth.
On July 10, 2023, Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) welcomed over 400 Club youth from 32 states, representing various Boys & Girls Clubs, for an incredible event called Summit for America’s Youth (SAY) in Washington, D.C. This Summit serves as BGCA’s premier youth advocacy event, granting Club youth and their adult mentors the chance to experience our Nation’s capital, exchanging their stories with esteemed members of Congress, while simultaneously benefiting from extensive training sessions and invaluable resources. Naturally, many Club members were apprehensive about what to expect.
“Attending the Summit for America’s Youth was transformative. From the very first night in D.C., I was given the opportunity to make a lasting impression by stepping out of my shell to give elevator pitches and share with Club members from around the country more about our Club’s programs. At first, I struggled to organize my thoughts and was nervous I might forget the talking points I had prepared. But after a few pitches, I began to improve. Each repetition brought me more confidence – allowing me to hold better eye contact and engage with the audience. Although I found it challenging, I also found it rewarding, and I know I will feel much more comfortable tackling similar situations in the future.”
- Xinyi, 17, Club member at Summit for America’s Youth
SAY officially began with the Advocacy Expo and opening reception. Teens representing their Clubs participated in the “Think, Learn, Create Change” (TLC) initiative, designing an approach to an issue they care about and creating a display to showcase their local advocacy project. Ten Clubs were selected as “Projects of Excellence,” and four were selected as finalists for the live Shark Tank event.
“The first night of SAY, each Club had their own table with a display showcasing their Club’s passion project. Everyone had a great time coming up to all the tables, collaborating, introducing themselves and learning more about important issues.”
- Gigi, 18, Club member at Summit for America’s Youth
During their time in D.C., Club teens were exposed to many members of Congress. Sen. Katie Britt (R-AL) – the youngest Republican Senator – and Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-FL) – the first-ever Gen-Z and youngest member of Congress – opened with motivating remarks, inspiring teens to act, follow their passions and remain engaged. We were excited to learn that both volunteered at a Boys & Girls Club!
During the “So, You Want to Work in Public Service” panel, teens learned about the diverse career opportunities that exist in government relations. The panel provided wisdom and sparked new career interests for young people at Clubs.
To keep the momentum going, the Career Fair and Speed Mentoring sessions gave Club teens the opportunity to meet with employees from nonprofit, government, corporations, universities and think tanks allowing them to hear about their various roles, ask questions and gain insight into their industries.
The second day’s events were capped off with a night-time tour of memorials and monuments.
“I loved the nighttime monument tour – I loved seeing these picturesque locations through a new lens. Being in D.C. with Boys & Girls Club peers who quickly became friends felt so surreal.”
- Nathan, 18, Club member at Summit for America’s Youth
It was time for Club teens to put all they learned into practice on Capitol Hill. They participated in over 140 meetings with more than 70 attended by their members of Congress. These meetings provided Club teens with the opportunity to speak candidly about their Club experiences, promote their advocacy projects and discuss the various issues affecting their Club and community. While the footprints left behind by Club members continue to vibrate on Capitol Hill and the impact they made to move key legislation continues to be analyzed, the memories they’ve created will be sure to last a lifetime.
“We were able to talk to two House Representatives and their staffers from District 17 and 18, Greg Steube and Scott Franklin. We also met with Senator Marco Rubio’s staffer and Senator Rick Scott. In each of these meetings, we told our Congressmen about our Boys & Girls Club and everything that our Club has offered us, from entrepreneurship and leadership programs to college mentoring and even simply emotional support. We extended each Congressman a warm invitation to come visit our Club and asked for their support during the next fiscal year to allow our Club to continue providing the resources it does.”
- Ethan, 18, Club member at Summit for America’s Youth
After a long, successful day on the Hill, Club youth needed to celebrate! Our first ever SAY-Fest topped off the day with dancing, eating and building life-long friendships across the Movement. A SAY-themed photobooth, an extremely popular candy bar, and Esports gaming room were all part of the epic night.
On the final day of Summit for America’s Youth, attendees were treated to private experiential learning events at various Smithsonian sites, including the National Air and Space Museum, American History Museum and the Museum of African History and Culture.
Key Takeaways from Club Members: The Future is LOUD!
“The Summit allowed us to realize that we are united, and there isn’t anything we, as youth, cannot do.”
– Ava, 16
“SAY reaffirmed that youth voices truly matter, and adults want to hear from us. Realizing our representatives and senators wanted to take time out of their day to talk to us was heartwarming.”
– Daria, 18
“My generation is no longer in the ‘waiting line’ to represent ourselves in government. We are not even on the ‘cusp’ of taking power. We are ready now – ready to make the changes that we desperately want implemented in our changing world.”
– Nathan, 18
The 2023 Summit for America’s Youth would not have been possible without support from partners like presenting sponsor Family Dollar, which supports Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s “Think, Learn, Create Change” (TLC) platform. This platform empowers Club youth to act on critical issues by providing resources, opportunities and support to Do More and become change agents in their communities.
Boys & Girls Clubs help millions of young people each year develop the skills to stand up for what they think is right and elevate their voices. Learn how to get involved with Boys & Girls Clubs of America.