KYAC Conference Teaches There’s “No Place Like Home … Make Yours”

August 2018 · Ministry News
Nearly 100 young people gathered in Lindsborg, Kansas, a few days ago for the Kansas Youth Advisory Council’s (KYAC) annual Summer Youth Conference, No Place Like Home … Make Yours. Hosted this year at Bethany College, the conference is for current youth in foster care, as well as those who have “aged out” and are receiving Independent Living services.

An initiative of the Kansas Department for Children and Families, KYAC empowers youth to advise and offer recommendations to state officials about the child welfare system, while also teaching teens the skills they’ll need to function as self-sufficient, capable adults.

Comprised of four Regional Youth Councils (RYAC) – two for Saint Francis youth in the West and Wichita regions and two for youth in eastern Kansas served by the state’s other private contractor, KVC – KYAC empowers young people ages 15-20 by valuing their voice and by giving them the tools they need to succeed as adults and as leaders. More than half of this year’s conference attendees were youth served by Saint Francis.

Because RYAC plays such an important role in skill building, Saint Francis’ Independent Living program provides oversight and guidance for the monthly meetings. Independent Living Program Manager Jennifer Walters, works with her staff to plan topics and organize monthly meetings for each RYAC. Saint Francis also plays a large role in helping organize the annual KYAC conference. Each year KYAC youth and staff from across the state gather together the day before the summer conference to begin preparing for the next day’s events.

Keynote speaker Jared Estes helps present certificates during the recognition portion of the conference.

This year’s conference featured two keynote motivational speakers, Jared Estes and KJ-52. Estes and his late wife were hit by a drunk driver which fatally injured his wife and left him with severe burns to nearly 50 percent of his body. Estes shared how he resilience and determination helped him deal with the grief of losing his wife and his yearlong struggle to recover from his injuries.

KJ-52 is a singer/rapper who uses song to spread inspirational messages of love and respect to young people. His presentation included a mini-concert that thrilled the adults as well as the kids.

Other activities included workshops on basic sewing, independent living benefits after custody, military service opportunities, insurance and health coverage, and college readiness. Youth were able to attend workshops that they felt would best suit their interests. High school and college graduates were also recognized.

“Overall, the 2018 KYAC Summer Youth Conference was a huge success; it was not only informative but fun for everyone who attended,” said Walters. “Although no youth is required to go, all are encouraged to participate. With such an astonishing turnout, it’s easy to see it’s a popular event.”

You can learn more about our Independent Living program here.

The transition into adulthood can be especially difficult for young people without caring adults to help them navigate unfamiliar waters into adulthood.

To learn how you can support kids making this transition, please visit The Saint Francis Foundation here.