Each year, the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy hosts a series of gatherings for young people to share leadership and educational opportunities. It’s called OK-LEAD. Young participants can visit museums and interact with community and business leaders to learn about important topics.
In the past, we have developed forums for adoptive and tribal youth as well as those nominated by youth-serving organizations. The program we hosted last week enriched the experiences of young people who had served as pages in the Oklahoma Legislative Assembly. We have worked with partners to organize tours of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum and the First Americans Museum. The youngsters also visited Fire Station 1 in Oklahoma City. At each stop, OK-LEADers had the chance to meet and visit with community leaders, including Michael Armstrong of KOCO-TV, State Representative Ajay Pittman and Mariann Lawson of First United Bank.
I would like to thank our OK-LEAD sponsors, including the Sarkeys Foundation and Paycom. Without the generosity of individuals and organizations, these opportunities would not be possible.
We look forward to a future venture, a collaboration with the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, which will reinstate the old 4-H club convention, including high school 4-H and FFA delegates. This “Legislative Experience for Youth” will give students the opportunity to travel to the Oklahoma Capitol and participate in a mock legislature on July 12-13. Each delegate will be allowed to submit one idea as a bill introduced in the Legislative Assembly. The leadership team of each organization will select the ideas that will be heard by the assembled delegates, and they will have the opportunity to debate, modify and question each proposal.
If you know a 4-H’er or FFA member who might be interested in this conference, have them contact their county leaders or local instructors for details. We hope this program will become a recurring event for these students to learn the process and even consider getting more involved in public service when they are old enough. We also hope that several current and former state elected officials will be part of this gathering to help inspire these young leaders to become more engaged in advocacy.
Joe Dorman is executive director of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy.