The Dane County Youth Governance Program was created in January 2012 as an opportunity for the youth of Dane County to make change in the county while developing valuable skills for the future. It was modeled after Kenosha County’s Youth in Governance program, which has been extremely successful and has benefitted the county as well as each of the individual youth representatives. Youth in Governance programs are coordinated by UW Extension throughout Wisconsin.

History of the Dane County Youth Governance Program

At its 2010 annual conference, the Wisconsin Association of County Extension Committees (WACEC) included a break-out session on statewide youth governance initiatives. The session focused on a program initiated in Kenosha County by UW Extension in 2006 that appoints youth members to serve on county board standing committees.

Inspired by the WACEC presentation, several county supervisors on the Dane County Extension Committee and Dane County Youth Commission held discussions both individually and with their respective appointed bodies on the concept of a youth governance model for the Dane County Board, and the programmatic linkages that could be created between the County Extension and Human Services Departments. The timeline to develop the program occurred in the following manner:

December, 2010 – January, 2011

Informal conversations began between Board Supervisors, Extension Staff, and Youth Commission staff about the opportunities for a youth government program in Dane County.

February – June, 2011

A series of meetings were convened in which the group examined other youth governance models throughout the state and locally [YMCA’s Youth in Governance (YIG) program, MMSD Board of Education and Kenosha County’s YIG program]. The group identified the program’s goals:  community development, youth development, and civic engagement.

July 1st, 2011

A Special Study Committee was appointed by the County Board Chair, Scott McDonell. Committee members met numerous times between July 27th and September 20th and received valuable input and feedback from community members (youth and adults) regarding program modifications and improvements.

October 28th, 2011

A Youth Summit was held during WEAC, which 24 adults and youth attended. There was much interest in the program and feedback was very positive.

January, 2012

Supervisors and supporters presented the proposal to various committees for approval.

January 19th, 2012

The Dane County Board of Supervisors approved the Youth Governance Program, and the process of fully developing and carrying out the program began by Dane County Extension.

June 7th, 2012

The first cohort was inducted into the Youth Governance Program with a Reception and Pinning Ceremony at a meeting of the Dane County Board of Supervisors.