OKLAHOMA CITY – There are some days when work is much better than others. I often tell young Oklahomans that it is important to find a career, not a job, when it comes to selecting employment, though it might take some time to get to that point.
Through the years, I have been extremely fortunate to have had some great employers and people with whom I could work with in different companies. That includes my current career. I am coming up on my sixth anniversary in about a month with the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA). Having the chance to work with this nonprofit organization, the team we have assembled and the bosses we have with our board of directors has been an amazing experience.
What makes it so special is knowing the work we do in helping shape policy at the state and federal level is truly making a difference for Oklahoma’s youth and their families, and even inspiring young people to look to improved policy solutions.
Such was the case a few weeks ago. OICA had the pleasure of working with Oklahoma Farm Bureau to host the inaugural Oklahoma Youth Legislative Experience, or OYLE. OYLE was the brainchild of Farm Bureau President Rodd Moesel and me, and it has been 20 years in the making.
We were both fans of the old 4-H Club Congress and hated to see that program shift to another, albeit worthy, opportunity for youth. We visited several times with ways to resurrect that program to provide an occasion for young leaders to write bill ideas for a mock legislature and debate with their peers.
This past year, we were able to convince those we work with to give this idea a chance. Our teams put together a camp for young people to visit the Oklahoma State Capitol and present policy ideas in an organized mock legislature. In the deliberations leading up to OYLE, Oklahoma 4-H and Oklahoma FFA, two phenomenal youth programs, were invited.
On Tuesday, July 12, OYLE convened for the first time and brought 65 high school students from across the state together to work on their legislative ideas. Over the two days, the students had time to deliberate the ideas brought forth, make amendments and vote on the policies. The delegates also heard from leaders working in state government and were assisted in their legislative duties by several lawmakers who gave of their time to help. The delegates also performed a community service project on top of their legislative work.
I can easily say the students not only had a valuable experience with OYLE, but it was also two of the best days I have had with my current role at OICA. Knowing we are helping steer the path for youth to have the knowledge with how to be more engaged in public service helps make this job of mine one of the best things I could imagine doing.
Thank you to all of those who help with youth programs like Oklahoma 4-H and FFA. Special appreciation goes to Farm Bureau for making OYLE a reality, and we hope to see this program grow even stronger next year. If you have any questions about how you can get involved, or if you know of a youth program that would benefit from learning the legislative process, please reach out to me at email@example.com or call OICA at (405) 236-5437.
About OICA: The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy was established in 1983 by a group of citizens seeking 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.”