Youth Programs Committee Annual Reports
The text of recently received Annual Reports are below, with the most recently received at the top and older reports below. To jump to a particular report, simply click the year listed below.
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No report received.
No report received.
The Youth Programs Committee’s (YPC) charge is to support the yearly meeting’s programs for middle and high schoolers, working with Youth Programs Manager Jossie Dowling to ensure that youth conferences have Friendly Adult Presences (FAPs) available, that logistic and safety concerns are addressed, and that our youth have the opportunity to experience loving Quaker fellowship throughout the year.
Every year BYM’s Youth Programs offer opportunities for youth to meet for weekend gatherings in a spirit of caring, trust, and love. Junior Young Friends (ages 11-14) and Young Friends (ages 14-18) attend workshops, play games, do business, and build community as they gather in meetinghouses all over our yearly meeting throughout the school year. Some Young Friends and Junior Young Friends attend BYM meetings and many attend or have attended our camps, but neither of those things are requirements to participate in our programs. If there are middle- or high-school-age Friends in your meeting or your family, consider this an invitation to talk to them about BYM Young Friends and Junior Young Friends conferences. If they don’t already attend, consider how you can help them take part.
Those of us who serve as FAPs, including many of the members of YPC, strive to ensure that our conferences are safe spaces for young people to work, play, and grow together, and this is an amazing job. While adults are in charge at Junior Young Friends (JYF) conferences, the Young Friends (YF) practice self-governance, and we follow their lead in making sure that things run smoothly. Sometimes this means accompanying Young Friends to the meetinghouse playground; sometimes it means offering a hand when lunch prep is running late; and a lot of the time it means checking in with members of Young Friends’ Nuts and Bolts Committee (NBC) to see what you can do to help. We always need more FAPs, and we’re having a training for new FAPs or those who haven’t served in a few years on September 7th. If you’d like to spend one or more weekends a year supporting our young people, please consider joining us then. The location will be announced soon. We are also looking for an experienced youth worker to join us as a paid JYF Assistant at each JYF conference, and more details about this position will be posted on the BYM website.
Although JYF has welcomed a wonderful new bunch of sixth graders this year, YF has been smaller than usual, which has made business meetings briefer but has required new kinds of work from NBC to make sure the community feels cohesive and grounded during conferences. The nature of these programs and the kids they serve means every year is a new adventure.
Youth Programs is a committee whose work is dispersed throughout the year as we support the regular cycle of JYF and YF conferences, and sometimes we struggle to consider bigger ideas and possibilities for our programs, particularly when our members are rushed with other work and family responsibilties. We had a committee retreat to help us address this in September, and we hope to make this an annual event. We know we cannot take our wonderful youth programs for granted. We also know that no part of our programs would be successful without Jossie, and all of us on the committee are so grateful for her candor, her expertise, and the deep love she has for the kids and her work.
No report received.
The Youth Programs Committee supports the Yearly Meeting’s programs for middle and high schoolers throughout the year, working with Youth Programs Manager Jossie Dowling to ensure that youth conferences have Friendly Adult Presences (FAPs) available and that logistic and safety issues with the programs are addressed effectively. We met four times this year, at three Interim Meeting days and at the February Young Friends Love Con, and we were grateful to have Young Friends representation at each of our meetings, even when overall committee attendance was small. The adults on YPC see ourselves as advocates for BYM’s youth, and we try to amplify their voices in the greater BYM community, and ensure that our youth programs are understood and valued by Friends of all ages.
The Junior Young Friends (JYF) program started off small this year, and the committee confronted the possibility of cancelling the October conference due to low registration, but with Jossie’s hard work and support from the committee, we wound up with 18 attendees at the first conference, with some growth at the subsequent three conferences. The average attendance was 20 JYFs, slightly down from last year, with a total of 43 attenders over the course of the school year. The JYF program theme this year was Awareness, and the JYFs had workshops on Consent, Lobbying, Environmental Justice, and Forestry Preservation, all led by generous and dedicated members of the BYM community. In the coming year, the committee will be working on improving outreach to middle schoolers throughout BYM and drumming up more adults to serve as FAPs with this group.
Young Friends (YF) meet five times throughout the school year as a full group, with the Nuts and Bolts Committee meeting three more times to discuss care for the community and issues of importance to Young Friends. Young Friends are self-governing and undertake much of the work of organizing their conferences and setting policy for their community themselves, through the standing Nuts and Bolts Committee, as well as ad hoc committees like Calendar and Handbook. The Calendar Committee had a few setbacks as three conferences had to be relocated from their original advertised locations, but we had an average of 60 Young Friends at each conference, slightly down from last year's 65, and there were an average of 15 Young Friends at each Nuts and Bolts Committee meeting.
Particularly in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, Young Friends sought out workshops to help them grow their awareness and engagement around social justice and human rights issues; topics included: Improvisation, Leadership Roles in Community Organizing, the Dakota Access Pipeline, Gender and Sexuality, Petitioning, and Peaceful Protest. As a result of the work of BYM’s STRIDE and Growing Diverse Leadership committees, we saw campers from our Philadelphia STRIDE program at four of our Young Friends Conferences this year. Young Friends are planning new outreach activities, including during camp changeover, to invite new F/friends into their community. YPC is continually inspired by the energy, thoughtfulness, and commitment of our Young Friends to each other, the program, the wider Quaker community, and the world.
Jeanette Smith and Anne Bacon led a FAP training in March, which has given us six newly qualified FAPs to add to our roster, four of whom are alumni of the BYM Young Friends Program, as are both the current co-clerks of YPC. We invite more Friends in BYM to train as FAPs and come nurture our wonderful yearly meeting youth community.
YPC is profoundly grateful for Jossie’s continuing work as Youth Programs Manager. It has been a pleasure to watch her grow from “the new Alison” into a confident and successful facilitator of the JYF and YF programs. The committee plans to explore ways to better support her and her work throughout the year, not just during conferences, and we are excited for another year of working with her.
Annalee Flower Horne and Becka Haines Rosenberg, co-clerks
The Youth Programs Committee oversees and coordinates all Yearly Meeting youth programs—for junior high/middle school and high school youth…
– Baltimore Yearly Meeting Manual of Procedure
Each year, there are five Young Friends (YF) conferences, three Nuts and Bolts Committee (NBC) retreats, and four Junior Young Friends (JYF) conferences. We play a supporting role with the Young Friends community, as they are self-governing, and we help coordinate the Junior Young Friends. This year, there were an average of 65 Young Friends and 22 Junior Young Friends at each conference. The theme for this year’s JYF program was “Acceptance”.
The 2015/2016 school year was one of change for the Youth Programs Committee. We welcomed Jossie Dowling as the new Youth Programs Manager following Alison Duncan’s departure last summer. Jossie brought with them a range of skills from their experience as the JYF Assistant and from their time on staff in the camping program. While the year was not without its share of bumps, including not one but two weather-related cancellations, Jossie was quick to learn the ins and outs of the position. Laura Coleson-Schreur rotated out of one of the co-Clerk positions and Annalee Flower Horne stepped in. Michael Doo finishes his two-year co-Clerk term this summer.
Youth Programs Committee met four times this year, three at Interim Meeting and once at the winter NBC retreat, plus two times at Annual Session 2015. We were fortunate to have energetic and committed Young Friends representatives at most of our meetings. Our focus was mainly on the logistics of running the YF/JYF programs, but we also continued our work with youth safety. To this end, we’ve drafted a Youth Safety Contract to help participants feel safer at conferences as well as having Jossie certified in Youth Mental Health First Aid. We were unable to hold a Friendly Adult Presence (FAP) training that was planned for the spring, but hope to do so in the fall of 2016.
The Young Friends community was busy this year amid the fun and spiritual community at their conferences. As usual, they’ve spent time in many different locales throughout the yearly meeting, including Adelphi, Homewood, Sandy Spring Friends School, The Clearing, and Hopewell Centre. They finished and approved a number of changes to the Young Friends Handbook that had started last school year. Through committee work, they also focused on keeping hydrated (Hydration Nation), being mindful of the ethics regarding the food they purchase (Food Committee), and talking about everything having to do with mermaids (Mermittee).
Junior Young Friends had the start of their year interrupted by Hurricane Joaquin. However, the program was quick to recover. The JYFs visited Alexandria, Stony Run, The Clearing, and Shiloh Quaker Camp in their tour of the yearly meeting. They had many workshops surrounding the year’s theme of “Acceptance”. The average attendance is slightly down from last year, but we remain confident the JYF program will continue to be valuable to those who attend as well as their families.
The Young Friends and Junior Young Friends are so important to the vibrant spiritual life of the yearly meeting. Both communities contribute to the spiritual deepening of our faith community in ways both seen and unseen. We look forward to the coming year and hope that we can encourage all our Monthly Meetings to send their middle- and high-school attenders to attend BYM youth events.
The 2014/2015 school year was full of love and light for Youth Programs. Our Young Friends (YF) and Junior Young Friends (JYF) conferences continue to provide a safe and loving space for participants to grow, learn, and enjoy each other’s company. We hope the wider BYM community sees how much younger Friends are reaping the benefits of these programs.
The committee was excited to bring on a JYF assistant (Jossie Dowling) at the beginning of the year and is sad to report the departure of Alison Duncan from her post as Youth Programs Manager as of July 15, 2015. Since starting in 2009, Alison has helped grow Youth Programs with great spiritual guidance and direction. In the last six years, not only has Alison helped cement the form and function of YF and JYF, she has also been an invaluable resource to this committee. We wish her well as she moves on to graduate school. After an extended search, the committee is happy to report that Jossie Dowling will be joining the Yearly Meeting as our new Youth Programs Manager. We look forward to welcoming them to the program and helping them get situated.
The committee met five times in the last year, including Annual Sessions and the winter YF Nuts and Bolts Committee (NBC) retreat. To help facilitate the committee’s work, we have four subcommittees. The Youth Programs Manager subcommittee supports Alison in her work and makes sure her needs are met. The Friendly Adult Presence subcommittee ensures each JYF and YF conference has a Designated Friendly Adult Presence (DFAP) and arranges for FAP trainings. This year, we had a FAP training in April at Friends Meeting of Washington, with four attendees. The JYF subcommittee provides logistical support for the JYF conferences. The Outreach subcommittee is new and is working to visit Meetings that are un- or under-represented within the Youth Program to make the BYM community more aware of our program’s work. We have representatives from YFs, and send representatives to Program Committee and the Youth Safety Policy Working Group.
In 5 YF conferences, an average of 65 high school aged Friends participated in each conference; in four JYF conferences, an average of 27 middle school aged Friends participated in each conference. The theme for this year’s JYF program was ‘Sense of Self’ and each conference had a workshop exploring this theme. Next year’s JYF theme will be ‘Acceptance’, and will explore accepting yourself, accepting other, and accepting how other see you.
The Young Friends community has been busy this year in a number of ways. Their conferences took place at Langley Hill, Adelphi, Homewood, The Clearing (a camp owned and operated by Richmond Friends Meeting), and Hopewell Centre. They continue to be self-governed through their nominated NBC that joyfully manages logistics for all the conferences with support from YPC and the YPM. NBC meets separately at Steering Wheel and two other retreats to allow for planning, fellowship, and fun. This year, they met at Frederick and Herndon Meetings. The Young Friends have been revising the Young Friends Handbook, exploring their relationships with nature and community service, and even are looking into new YF merchandise! They have worked hard to continue to be “a community built on caring, trust, and love.”
Junior Young Friends continues to grow and flourish as a program. Their conferences occurred at Homewood, Patuxent, Richmond, and Opequon Quaker Camp. We are especially encouraged by the attendance at JYF conferences. It continues to be a very significant aspect of Youth Programs. This year, the committee was happy to welcome Jossie Dowling as the JYF Assistant. She has been a great help to the program and Alison. New T-Shirts were printed this year with a clever design by Alison that depicted a peanut butter jar with the word “JYF” at the top.
We also held a Parent Conference at Stony Run in conjunction with the Religious Education retreat and had a very helpful workshop entitled “How to Fight with Your Teens” led by Friend Emory Luce Baldwin. We strive to hold a Parent Conference every other year.
The coming year will be one of transition for us. We will be working hard as a committee to make the new Youth Programs Manager feel welcome and comfortable with the many different aspects of the position. It will be a challenging, but ultimately rewarding task and we look forward to it. Alison leaves a solid foundation and a very vibrant program that is beloved. She also leaves some big shoes to fill but we feel confident that the program will continue to flourish. We hope to continue to support and nurture the youth programs of the Yearly Meeting while also having a lot of fun!
Laura Coleson-Schreur (Stony Run) & Michael Doo (Stony Run), Co-Clerks
BYM's Youth Program continues to be a vital and important component of the life of our community. It is a valuable avenue of outreach and a formative spiritual place for the future Friends of our Meetings. It is a place where joy abounds and adults, as well as the young participants, feel that light of love and acceptance within. It is a place for friendships to be made, leadership skills to be practiced, and an accepting loving community that many are hard pressed to find in their schools and life.
This year we have enjoyed the stability and firm foundation of strong guidance, leadership, and participation forged over many years of hard work. We continue to see impressive growth not only in our numbers but also spiritually and emotionally in the youth that are involved.
Over and over we hear how this program has enhanced their lives and provides a place where they are “free to be themselves.” The level of excitement before a “Con” is palpable and the cries of “NOOOO!!!” could be heard throughout the region when weather necessitated a few changes to both the JYF and YF calendars this winter.
The JYF (Junior Young Friends age 11-13) chose the theme of “Communication” this year, and looked at communication with Nature, Interpersonal communication, Digital and other forms of communication, and Intercultural communication in their conferences. We went to Annapolis Friends Meeting, Goose Creek, Charlottesville, and Catoctin Quaker Camp where we had 25 people graduate. Our numbers keep growing and we had two JYF cons with 50 kids this year and averaged 45 for each. This enthusiasm has necessitated that our committee look at hiring an additional staff person to assist the Youth Program Manager, Alison Duncan at JYF con weekends. We are very proud and excited to announce the hiring of Jocelyn “Jossie” Dowling to fill this role. Jossie is from Adelphi Meeting, Catoctin Camp as a camper, and a she was a camp counselor at Shiloh; she graduated from Guilford College and just finished the Quaker Voluntary Service Program. I’m sure she will be welcomed to the JYF program as enthusiastically as only middle school age kids can!
The YF (Young Friends age 14-18) program had five conferences at Adelphi, Friends Meeting of Washington, Stony Run, State College, and Sandy Spring. The YF program chooses topics for each conference vs a theme for the year and this year they had sessions on Journalism, Class or Income Inequality, Transgender, and Consent. They also had a service weekend where they worked at a park. The average number at YF cons this year was 67 with 85 youth at their largest con and 19 people graduated, where I am sure there were many tears as well as smiles as they move on to become Young Adult Friends.
The YF program is assisted by the YPC but is really self governed and run by a committee of it’s members. They organize the logistics and food for these large gatherings, learn valuable leadership skills, and have plenty of fun while they are at it too. This year the group decided to change it’s name from the “Executive Committee” - otherwise known as “Exec” to “Nuts and Bolts Committee” or “NBC” so as to be seen on equal footing as their other members. They met in September at Pipe Creek, in January at Herndon, and most recently in August at their “Steering Wheel” at Frederick.
This program could not be run without a dedicated cadre of adult volunteers who act as Friendly Adult Presences or FAPs and they log thousands of hours of volunteer time helping out at all the Cons. There was a FAP training at Goose Creek this year where 17 people attended, and there will be three separate smaller sessions at Annual Session for interested adults. It is a great joy and privilege to work with, and get to know these fine young people, and a terrific reminder for us of how to have fun!
These kids just keep growing up and moving on so we always need new youth coming in! To that end we created a beautiful brochure that is available for Meeting houses to display to tell young people and families about the program. We are trying to broaden our reach and have more cons scheduled in the south. And we are trying to broaden our scope in response to the Vision Implementation Committee and plan on visiting under, or unrepresented Meetings throughout BYM. We know that there are Meetings with youth attending that are not involved in the youth program so we strive to open our arms further and engage them to participate. As a committee we are trying to broaden our minds and strive to look at the effect that “isms” (racism, ageism, sexism, etc.) have in our words, actions, and society. We are looking ahead to planning the second biannual parent conference this fall. And we would like to support more young people attending Annual Session so we are looking at fundraising ideas to help with their costs.
We have some hardworking people rotating off the committee this year including: Becka Haines Rosenberg, Deb Legowski, Carol Seddon, Nony Dutton, and Annalee Flower Horne and we thank them for their efforts and enthusiasm for working with the future of our Meeting!
We are indebted to Alison Duncan for the fine job she has done with this program over the past few years as Youth Program Manager and look forward to more of her tenure. The kids adore her and so do we for her steady, calm, and fun presence. When the JYF were asked what qualities they would want in a JYF assistant if we were to hire one they said, (amongst other things besides “Not a parent!”) “Another Alison!” We hope your kids enjoyed participating in this program, if they did, and if you know anyone - kids or adults who want to have some fun we would welcome them!
The programs offered to youth, from camps in the summer to the conferences during the school year, may be Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s largest program of advancement and outreach.
During the 2012-13 year, four Junior Young Friends (JYF) conferences and five Young Friends (YF) conferences touched the lives of 190 (138 YF and 52 JYF) young people from an estimated 25 Monthly Meetings. Some young people list one of the Quaker camps as their Monthly Meeting, others list a Friends School. Some come as friends of Friends. The Young Friend’s Executive Committee offers leadership training to 24 of these Young Friends at three additional conferences. These conferences make a difference in our young people’s lives. One Young Friend said, "Young Friends is a community of unconditional love. When I first joined it was a very dark time in my life. I am who I am today because of Young Friends.” Truly, our programs allow our youth to grow from common roots toward the Light.
In addition to the twelve conferences sponsored by the Youth Programs Committee (YPC), our committee held a conference for parents at William Penn House and two training sessions for Friendly Adult Presences (FAP) – one at Goose Creek Friends Meeting and one at Homewood Friends Meeting. The parent conference, or ‘P-Con’, as it was affectionately known, met (and ate pecans) at the same time as the October JYF Con. This provided some parents the opportunity to drop off their children at Alexandria Meeting and travel to William Penn House, where they learned about the youth programs of the Yearly Meeting and met parents who are guiding our children from childhood to adulthood. Harriet Heath from Philadelphia Yearly Meeting presented a workshop on Quaker parenting. We expect to continue to have a parent conference every two years.
Under our Youth Safety Policy, we are mandated to provide training to all adults working with our youth. This year we trained 16 new FAPs; 14 of them have already had the opportunity to volunteer their time to support our loving community. We are excited that some of the newly trained FAPs are young adults who were a part of the Young Friends community and now want to give back their time and their love. Finding enough adults to be a Friendly Presence at the conferences can still be a challenge. We will hold two more trainings in the coming year and invite all adults in the Yearly Meeting to consider if they are led to serve in this way. One FAP said, “…being a FAP is a SUPRISingly great experience. I never would have thought hanging out with a bunch of middle school age kids would be for me, but it’s been a learning and growing experience as well as an honor and great fun.”
In order to meet the needs of our community, our Youth Programs Manager, Alison Duncan, sent out the first survey on youth programs to Junior Young Friends, Young Friends, Parents, FAPs, and meetings that have hosted one of our gatherings. We received almost 70 responses with 94% saying that they were highly likely to recommend this program to their friends. We also received valuable input on how we can improve our program in the future through facilitating carpooling to conferences, working to feed large gatherings more efficiently, and increasing communication to families.
In addition to the feedback from the survey, YPC has also discerned two issues that we want to explore in the future: expanding the Junior Young Friends Program and confronting the “isms” of our Society such as racism, sexism, and ageism.
Many Meetings experience a drop off of attendance by youth in their middle and high schools years or have few if any Friends of this age. Our programs are a vital outreach to small meetings. One Junior Young Friend said, “It is like BYM summer camps but spread out through the year. Also I get to see friends from camp who live far away from me.” And one parent said, “Great opportunity for my son to not feel like the only Quaker teenager on Earth!”
We will also be implementing the protocols of our new Youth Safety Policy including improved record keeping, and retraining of FAPs who have not served within the last two years.
With the guidance and Light of our awesome Youth Programs Manager, Alison Duncan, our committee will continue to advance and nurture our youth: “This is such an important community for young people going through this stage of life. I am delighted that my son has a safe place where he can explore who he is becoming. I am appreciative of the brave, honest, and open topics of conversation in which he engages at JYFcon. He will definitely continue.” Parent of a Junior Young Friend
Deborah Legowski, co-clerk, Youth Programs Committee
Our BYM Youth Programs provide a nurturing spiritual home for our youth. At the conferences our youth rest in the arms of an embracing community in which love is palpable. They experience Quaker worship and business process, and what keeps them coming back is the tremendous amount of joy and fun that they share.
We continue to have large numbers participating, including many from Quaker families as well as others who are introduced to our programs through the BYM camps or the invitation of Friends. This year 140 high school age Young Friends (YFs) participated, with an average attendance of 90 for the five YF conferences; 43 middle school age Junior Young Friends(JYFs) participated, with an average attendance of 33 at the four JYF conferences. The JYFs selected this year’s theme , “Insecurity”, which they explored in different ways at each conference.
We remain grateful for the spiritual guidance and direction provided by our able staff person Alison Duncan. At YPC’s recommendation, Alison’s title was changed this year from Youth Secretary to Youth Programs Manager to provide a clearer message regarding her role and function to those families less familiar with Quaker-ese.
Our committee met four times this year and has three subcommittees. The Youth Programs Manager Support Subcommittee has continued to provide support and guidance to Alison. The Friendly Adult Presence (FAP) Subcommittee implemented two FAP trainings this year to continue to supply the large number of trained FAPs needed to support each conference. The JYF Subcommittee provided logistical support for the JYF conferences.
The Young Friends Executive Committee (EXEC) governs Young Friends. This year the size of EXEC was expanded from 17 to 23 members to reflect the larger number of YFs participating in the program recently. With the guidance of Alison Duncan the YFs independently plan, implement and oversee the conferences. We continue to marvel at the maturity and leadership that they demonstrate. For the last two years the group has struggled with the many challenges posed by large numbers attending the conferences. The Young Friends have worked hard to make adjustments to accommodate the larger number of attendees. As a result, the conferences this year have been more centered and cohesive.
Our adult volunteer FAPs demonstrate remarkable commitment and make this program possible. Our FAPs include both parents and nonparents, and we see increasing numbers of FAPs who grew up in Young Friends. During the 2011-2012 year, 38 FAPs provided over 3100 hours of volunteer time to support our Youth Programs.
This year we are losing some long-time committee members. We are most grateful for their service to YPC, and we recognize that we need to develop new strengths within the committee to continue to guide and support our great programs.
There were few dry eyes following Stony Run Friends Meeting for Worship at the conclusion of “Grad Con” 2011. With dozens of Young Friends (YFs) filling the Meeting House to capacity, we celebrated coming full circle. Five years ago, YFs were banned from using Stony Run Meeting House following a couple of incidents of youth misconduct at a YF conference held there. The crisis in confidence that followed had ripple effects throughout the BYM. It led many Friends to question the YFs dearly held principle of “self-governance.” However, crisis became opportunity. In the ensuing five years, the Youth Programs Committee and Young Friends have rebuilt the program. YFs have re-dedicated themselves to the full expression of self-governance. BYM youth programs are thriving.
The Youth Programs Committee began the year with a retreat in which we contemplated what it is we value about the BYM youth programs. We affirmed the importance of the program in the lives of our Quaker youth. The conferences provide an opportunity for our middle and high school age Friends to safely explore and celebrate who they are and to grow personally and spiritually. The friendships that develop there often become life-long. The experience of engaging deeply in traditional Quaker business process helps them develop as Quakers and as leaders.
Alison Duncan has completed her second year as BYM Youth Secretary. She sustains and supports the program with remarkable equanimity. Our young people love and respect her, and share a lot of fun! After several years of YPC running the program without staff support, it has been a great relief to have the program supported by such an able staff person. If anything, our committee is relying too much upon Alison’s leadership and need to bolster the committee’s efforts.
The Junior Young Friends (JYF) Program has had an outstanding year. We increased the number of conferences during the year from three to four. This allows our middle school aged kids to gather and form a vibrant, Quaker community. We currently limit the JYF conferences to 35 kids. Our theme for the year was “Sexuality” – chosen by the kids the previous year. Alison was trained and used Our Whole Lives, a lifespan sexuality curriculum which is a joint project of the Unitarian Universalists Association and the United Church of Christ. The JYFs thoroughly enjoyed and engaged in the curriculum. Our final conference of the year was held at Catoctin Quaker Camp and we were joined by 10 kids and 3 adults from Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. Bringing the two programs together was great for the kids and the adults. The JYFs had a chance to see that there are more Quakers out there, just like them. Together we continue to affirm Quaker values in the lives of our middle schoolers. The theme selected for next year is “Insecurity.”
The Young Friends (high school age) Program has grown in attendance and popularity resulting in a size problem this year. After averaging about 60 attendees at Cons last year, attendance at all but one Con this year exceeded 100. After first celebrating our success in attracting large numbers, YFs began to seriously grapple with what came to be known as the “Bigness Problem.” It became clear that the challenges posed by increased numbers are daunting. It is an extraordinary task for a group of teenagers to plan and run a weekend conference for over 100 people. Maintaining the required FAP (Friendly Adult Presence) ratio of 1:10 requires a large pool of trained and willing FAPs. Very few meeting houses can accommodate such large numbers. But most importantly, the YFs found that the larger numbers were a threat to "the closeness of their community.” It felt “less Quaker.” The YFs responded by independently pulling together an ad-hoc committee; they independently planned a specially called conference to generate solutions to the issues presented by increased numbers. The Youth Programs Committee was impressed with the initiative, responsibility, and maturity that the YFS demonstrated in stewarding their community. Several important solutions to the Bigness problem were generated, including requirements for pre-registration two weeks in advance, expanding the size of the Executive Committee, and providing better guidance for food planners in planning for large numbers. Overall, Young Friends had a great year. The challenges posed by the growing community are likely to remain topics of discussion in the coming year.
In November, approximately 30 YFs participated in a BYM Envisioning Session facilitated by Betsy Meyer and Ken Stockbridge. Many of the YFs are drawn to their community because they feel unconditionally loved and accepted there, and because the YFs community helps them to find their better selves. It is a safe place to explore faith without being judged based on their beliefs. The YFs do not always feel that they are a part of the larger Yearly Meeting community of Friends. They expressed a desire to participate in the larger Friends community and welcome opportunities to learn about Quaker history and practice.
In May 2010, Alison Duncan organized a “Parent Con”, a weekend conference held at Catoctin Quaker Camp to provide a forum for parents of BYM teenagers. With over 20 parents in attendance, the conference clearly met a great need for parents to share the joys and challenges of parenting teens. The committee plans to hold another Parent Con in 2012.
The Youth Programs Committee remains impressed at the large pool of adults in BYM who are willing to devote weekends to our youth. This year 31 Friendly Adult Presences (FAPS) provided over 3000 hours of volunteer support for our programs! We held a day-long FAP training this Spring to assure that a sufficient pool of FAPS remain available to support our growing programs. Next year we seek to diversify our FAP pool.
The BYM youth programs are remarkably lively and strong. They substantially contribute to the health and vitality of BYM. They give us hope for the future. We are creating Quaker leaders who have deep understanding and experience of Quaker process. They are in demand from Quaker colleges and other national programs. The large numbers participating in our youth programs indicates that that there are many kids “out there” that want, need, and are seeking the kind of spiritual community that they find in the BYM youth programs.