The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy takes the role of championing causes for kids very seriously. OICA has worked at the state capitol and around Oklahoma for 34 years to see better opportunities, primarily for at-risk kids. While we will never shirk that mission, when I took over the role of leading the organization, I committed that we would do more to help all kids. This would include an additional effort to prepare the future leaders of our state and nation.
OICA is working to develop new leadership programs for students from various cultures and backgrounds that do not already have some type of association. We intend to provide needed skills to these emerging leaders and help prepare them for the day when they will be active in government, their communities or the business sector. We are developing these different leadership entities and hope to see them become a reality by next summer with proper funding and programming support. For more information on how to assist, please contact us at oica.org or at (405) 236-5437.
For the many programs already in existence, I want to see OICA provide added benefit to those organizations. I had the pleasure of working with the YMCA Youth and Government program over this past weekend. Other volunteers and I served as advisors at the State Capitol for these high school students interested in politics and the media. The students I worked with were taken on tours of a radio station, a television station, the Oklahoma History Center, the State Capitol and they participated in the organization’s mock legislative and judicial programs. To learn more about Youth and Government program, check out http://ymcaokc.org/children-youth/teen-initiative/youth-and-government or call Whitney at (405) 297-7778.
There are many other statewide youth programs available, and two are currently taking applications. Oklahoma Girls State, found at https://okgirlsstate.com/ on the web, and Oklahoma Boys State, located at http://okboysstate.com/, provide the process for how to join. These programs are open to students who have completed a specific grade level and have a strong interest in government. The University of Oklahoma additionally offers college hours for the young women who attend Girls State. This information can be found at http://www.ou.edu/concurrent/girls-state-.html on how to receive this credit.
Interested parties should also check out the Youth Leadership Oklahoma program, located at http://leadershipoklahoma.com/Youth-Program/Overview on their website. While this application process has closed for 2017, this is certainly one of the premier organizations for young Oklahomans to participate and learn about our great state!
For adults, we need you to volunteer and help mentor programs with 4-H, FFA, Scouts and the other youth organizations available around Oklahoma. The best thing for these young leaders is to learn from those who have been there before and who can help pass along the wisdom of service. As one of my mentors used to say, “We need to leave the woodpile just a little bit higher than we found it” and that philosophy applies for the children who will soon serve as leaders.
The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy was established in 1983 by a group of citizens, to create a strong advocacy network that would provide a voice for the needs of children and youth in Oklahoma, particularly those in the state’s care and those growing up amid poverty, violence, abuse and neglect, disparities, or other situations that put their lives and future at risk.
Our mission statement: “Creating awareness, taking action and changing policy to improve the health, safety and well-being of Oklahoma’s children.“
2017 OK YMCA Youth and Government Governor Lyndsey Speer delivering her “State of the State” to the assembled delegates in the chamber of the Oklahoma House of Representatives