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Youth as Partners in Civic Leadership Conference advocates for a youth voice while building networking and learning opportunities


The annual Youth as Partners in Civic Leadership (YPCL) Conference is a chance for young people to be heard and to share their ideas with other youths throughout the state. YPCL is a three-day, two-night conference with the mission of advancing the youth voice in Wisconsin by increasing the capacity for youth and adults to share civic leadership in local communities, schools, and organizations.

Teams of adults and high school youth (ages 14-18) throughout the state will share decision-making roles in communities, schools and organizations at the Upham Woods Outdoor Learning Center in Wisconsin Dells at the annual YPCL Conference from Oct. 20-23. The three days will include interactive youth-led workshops, outdoor activities, and team building with a diverse community in a beautiful natural setting.

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“Teams from different youth organizations, schools, and other groups come from all across the state to learn from one another about issues in their community,” Joe Maldonado, program manager for Community Youth Development at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension, tells Madison365. “They address topics such as relationships, community organizing, health, and more.

Joe Maldonado

“They also participate in a variety of outdoor and indoor activities. And at the end of the three days, each team comes up with an action plan based on what they learned of what it is that they’re gonna do when they get home,” Maldonado adds. “So essentially, it’s a chance for folks to be able to learn from one another and take that information back to better their own home communities.”

Youth groups work on issues like relationships, healthy lifestyles, community organizing, diversity/multicultural engagement, bullying and youth violence. Registration is now open and closes on Thursday, Oct. 5.

“It’s a very diverse group that comes from all across the state from our tribal communities to large cities and small towns and rural areas,” Maldonado says. “They all have a similar focus which is empowering one another, and empowering where they live.”

Maldonado says that YPCL has been in existence for close to two decades.

“This has always been collaboratively planned. It’s been led by the UW-Extension, but it has been made up of a committee of adults and young people from different community organizations,” Maldonado says. “Each year, it’s a slightly different cast, but there have been some organizations that have been involved from close to the beginning.

“It is a chance for many young people to see folks from communities that they may have not otherwise interacted with,” he adds. “There are several folks who have been a part of YPCL and are now sort of really active in the civic engagement space.” 

This year’s workshops at the conference will align with the theme ‘Remaining Rooted In Your Resistance.’ Workshops can range in topic areas but should incorporate the themes of policy, systems, and environment. Attendees can submit their workshop here. Submissions are due Oct. 5. Participating teams are encouraged to lead workshops and roundtables. 

“Teams of adults and youth register together. So if you have a small group, you sign up the members of your group to be able to attend together,” Maldonado says. “The cost of the event is $140, and that includes lodging, food, and also all the activities for three days.”

Scholarships are available upon request. Individual participants must register as a part of a team or group such as a school or youth-serving organization.

“It’s a really exciting opportunity,” Maldonado says. “Registration is open through Oct. 5”

To register for YPCL, visit the website. If you have any questions, e-mail [email protected].