Students learn how to make a difference on their summer vacation

Posted on August 29, 2016 • Category: The Arizona We Want

It is back to school time and conversations in classrooms everywhere are starting with, “what did you do over summer vacation?”

You can bet that swimming, riding bikes and camping probably topped the list for many students. However, for three youth advisory councils in Arizona, the list looked quite different. They spent the summer researching and learning about teacher pay, littering and managing healthy relationships.

The Center for the Future of Arizona and Arizona State University’s Office of Entrepreneurship + Innovation are partnering on a new effort to give students the opportunity to not just talk about important topics in their community but to do something about them.

The DemocraSeed program prompts youth councils to develop and implement civic engagement projects that motivate their peers and communities to become engaged in civic health activities. Studies show that one method of inspiring students and teaching civic engagement, while fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, is to educate students in design-thinking methods and creating hands-on projects.

On Aug. 24, three youth advisory councils presented projects to a panel of judges at the Arizona League of Cities and Towns Annual Conference. The groups had 15 minutes each to present their civic engagement project and vie for grant money to implement their project. They were encouraged to focus on three areas when choosing an issue:

  • Innovation: demonstrate a compelling need for the innovative concept and explain the idea clearly and concisely.
  • Impact: understand the expected impact for the idea and create metrics to evaluate success.
  • Implementation: projects need to provide a feasible timeline, potential challenges and solutions, explanation of who is working on the project and an appropriate budget.

The following groups participated:

Lake Havasu’s Youth Advisory Council is engaging their community with an effort to welcome and reward teachers in their city. Specifically, they are putting together welcome baskets for the 50 new teachers at Lake Havasu Unified School District this school year to demonstrate the community’s support for the teachers and welcome them to Lake Havasu. After a failed bond election and an increase in the cost of health insurance, several teachers quit last year. The Youth Advisory has been soliciting donations from local business to give teachers everything from massage gift cards to free movie tickets. They will continue to grow this effort by creating online wish lists for the teacher once they are settled and asking the community to purchase items on these wish lists.

Lake Havasu Youth Advisory Council won 1st place and will receive $750 to implement their project.

The Young River People, who are members of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community are promoting neighborliness in their community by organizing three community clean-up dates in the coming months. As residents, these students have witnessed the destruction of their beautiful land by people dumping their junk and trash on the reservation. The group will also focus on removing graffiti. Their plan also includes working with surrounding communities to raise awareness about this issue.

The Young River People won 2nd place and will receive $500 to implement their project.

Surprise Youth Advisory Council is taking on a very sensitive and complicated topic – healthy relationships. In the coming months, four youth council members will be trained by Bloom 365 ( to educate their peers on healthy relationship behaviors to increase trust amongst community members. The educational conversations will take place during assemblies held at the seven high schools in Surprise. After noticing an increase in unhealthy relationship behaviors in their peers, particularly via social media, the youth council decided they would like to help prevent teen dating violence and promote healthy behaviors through an education and awareness campaign.

Surprise Youth Council placed 3rd and will receive $350 to implement their project.

To find out more about the DemocraSeed project, please contact Megan Fisk at or Kimberly Roland at  To learn more about the Center for the Future of Arizona, visit For more information on ASU Entrepreneurship + Innovation, visit

Center for the Future of Arizona
541 East Van Buren, B-5
Phoenix, Arizona 85004-2211
Phone: 602-496-1360
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