Youth Summit Looms

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Pine for the days of old with their summits with the Soviets? Despair not. The departments of Agriculture, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Labor, Justice, and Transportation, as well as the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the National Guard – each of which have programs that focus on youth – are sponsoring a National Youth Summit in June in Washington, D.C.

According to HHS Family and Youth Services Bureau Associate Commissioner Harry Wilson, the three-day multi-agency event will be telecast by satellite and downlinked to 10 regional sites – a prospect about as exciting as watching the Politburo review the May Day Parade in Red Square.

“The hope is that this process is leading up to a collaborative ideal involving all the different agencies,” muses Wilson. “My agency, for instance, will be promoting positive youth development, marriage and responsible fatherhood, and the participation of more faith-based and community-based programs.”

Scuttlebutt has it that on this last goal it is difficult to come up with non-governmental community-based groups that are sufficiently conservative to take part in pre-summit discussions centered on agenda formulation. “There are a lot of lefty activists out there, but the conservatives are hard to find,” said a person familiar with the summit. This is a problem best resolved by the new White House Office of the USA Volunteer Corps. Qualified applicants (you know who you are) can count the summit assignment towards the 4,000 hours of lifetime service.

Irv Katz, president of the D.C.-based National Assembly and its 39-member National Collaboration for Youth, is unclear about the role nongovernmental groups will play in formulating the event’s agenda. “We have every intention of participating if asked,” remarked Katz.

Acting as a consultant to Wilson’s shop on the summit is Karen Morison, former deputy director of public policy for the Institute for Youth Develop-ment. Morison says the summit website will be “up some time soon” The summit national steering committee, which includes (with the exception of Wilson) non-appointed reps of all the participating agencies, is being charged, we’re told, with coming up with “scholarship” money to provide transportation for youth invited to the conference.

Wilson says it had been hoped that the summit, which he expects to attract some 1,200 persons, would be a governmental response to the Younger Americans Act (now languishing in Congress), with the YAA goals “transposed” to coordinated agency efforts. “But no position has been taken by the [Bush] administration on YAA,” he says.

To simplify, says Wilson, the agencies’ goals are similar to those of America’s Promise: The Alliance for Youth – mentors, safe places, healthy start, marketable skills and community service. “But the idea is not to have replication and wasted effort.” Contact: Pam Carter, (202) 401-9215,