Last month FEMA’s Individual and Community Preparedness Division (ICPD) hosted its annual Youth Preparedness Council (YPC) Summit. This event brought together 15 young leaders from across the country to discuss disaster preparedness and position them to continue making a difference in their communities. Typically, the Summit brings the Council members to Washington, D.C., for an in-person event. This year, however, the Summit looked a bit different due to the ongoing Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Instead of meeting in person, the participants met each other in a completely virtual event.
The remote nature of the Summit didn’t stop members from having a fun and exciting time over the course of three afternoons. On the first day, the YPC members had the honor of being joined by the First Lady of the United States, Melania Trump.
Mrs. Trump praised the YPC members for helping their schools and communities. “One of the main pillars of my Be Best Initiative focuses on the well-being of children, which includes the importance of educating young people from all backgrounds how to prepare for emergency situations,” noted the First Lady. “This Council,” she added, “embodies that pillar by integrating your voices and vital lessons for children into emergency preparedness. It is never too early for young people to learn how to react and cope during emergency situations.” Mrs. Trump also engaged the members in a question and answer session. They were able to share with her their passion for preparedness, their activities, and what motivated them to apply for the Council.
This year, seven new members were selected from learn a pool of highly qualified applicants. They join eight returning members on the Council. Together they represent all corners of the country – from New England to Puerto Rico, from the Midwest to Alaska. The YPC members bring a wide range of backgrounds and interests, but hold a common passion: preparing their families, peers, schools, and communities to be resilient in the face of disasters.
Many of the new and returning YPC members want to pursue careers related to their passion for preparedness. A career panel featuring a trio of FEMA leaders was also a highlight of the Summit. FEMA Region IV Regional Administrator Gracia Szczech, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Field Operations Leiloni Stainsby, and Individual and Community Preparedness Branch Chief Matt Lyttle shared their own paths in the field. They also provided advice and guidance to help the young leaders chart their own course.
Throughout the Summit, the members learned about programs designed to strengthen preparedness across the country. They also began planning their own projects to host back home. This year, the YPC will focus on designing and hosting preparedness fairs, which they will hold virtually or in-person in Spring 2021. The members are charged with creating a theme for their fair, designing what their event will look like and how it will engage their communities, planning the logistics, and contacting local leaders to help with promotion. They will work with FEMA and one another to build successful events.
The young leaders that make up this year’s Council, and those from past years, are truly the future of emergency management. Their unique viewpoints and the work they’ve already done play an important role in building a culture of preparedness. By working with them and other like-minded youth, FEMA can empower the next generation of emergency managers.
The 2020-2021 YPC program year will be an exciting one! We can’t wait to share more about these inspiring young leaders in the coming months.
Learn more about the Youth Preparedness Council (YPC) and join us in congratulating the new and returning members as they embark on an exciting year to come.
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This article first appeared in the monthly Individual and Community Preparedness Newsletter. Subscribe here.