Providing a voice
for youth across
By DAVID MYERS
Southwest Kansas Register
The Diocese of Dodge City Youth Council has but one mission: to be a voice for young people across southwest Kansas.
When you see advertisements for upcoming diocesan camps, junior high or high school youth rallies, or for other events such as the Diocesan Softball Tournament, it’s this group of nearly 30 high school youth from around the diocese who are responsible for their planning.
Planning the rallies includes particular responsibility for the council, who must peer into the minds of the youth of the diocese and understand their spiritual needs.
“They are responsibly for preparing an opening show for the two rallies, as well as breakout sessions,” explained Diocesan Director of Youth Ministry, Steven Polley. “What are the hot topics? What do we need to focus on for breakout session or for a workshop? What are the key issues the kids of the diocese are facing?”
Polley said that to be sure they can handle such responsibility, he and a team of four other adult advisors prayerfully choose each council member. The applicant must be in high school. They are asked to fill out an application and provide two letters of reference. The adult advisory board includes Polley, Dave Geist and Brenda Jenson, all of Dodge City, Sonja Baker of Marienthal, and Mike Franco of Ulysses.
The council in its present form was established in 1997 by Polley soon after being hired by the diocese. The original vision was to have 12 youth, four from each deanery: Dodge City, Garden City, and Great Bend. Polley said they quickly eliminated the two-year term limit, and increased the number of youth who could attend.
“We realized that their gifts were too valuable to say you could only be on it for two years,” Polley said. “So we threw that out the window.”
The council meets approximately eight times per year at various locations, including at a “leadership weekend” in August. In January, members are asked if they wish to continue to serve on the council.
“Probably the thing that has most impressed me is the commitment of the council members,” Polley said. “When these kids sign up and want to serve, they are committed to serving the council. They seem to cherish the bond of friendship, the community that’s formed within the youth council. There’s a desire of a lot of kids throughout the diocese to be a part of this.”
Jason Eakes, 16, who belongs to St. Patrick Parish in Plains, has served on the council for one year, and intends to continue until he graduates high school in 2012.
“I just like being with Catholic kids my own age, getting to be a part of what happens in our diocese, and planning things for other youth,” he said. “It’s fun to be involved in the rallies and camps.
“It’s a lot of fun and a really good experience. I’ve suggested it to a lot of my friends.”
Jason’s sister, Kathy, 18, graduated this year after serving three years on the council. When asked if she would miss it, she responded adamantly: “I will miss it so much next year. I loved the planning aspect and all the thought that goes into all the events we do.”
She said she liked most “the bond we had as a group and the way we were able to affect so many people. When we were at other events, even outside of church, the bond we created at the youth council made it be easier to be open around others. …I loved that great connection we all had.
“It was a great experience.”
Addison Nichols, 17, of Mary Queen of Peace Parish in Ulysses started on the council when he was a freshman, and said he will continue until he graduates high school in 2011.
The best part of being on the council, he said, was “meeting people from other towns and keeping relationships with them.”
Other youth in Ulysses have benefited from Addison’s term on the council. Thanks to Addison and former council member and Ulysses resident Jacob Stein, who has since graduated high school, word has spread about the rallies.
“When I joined the council, my town started to get more involved going to youth rallies,” he said. “I didn’t even know they were happening until I joined the council.”
When asked if he would encourage others to attend, he answered, “Oh, yeah. Definitely.”