Thank you to Carol Kost, the founder of Loudoun Youth, for answering a few questions with us. Congratulations on 10 years!
Celebrating 10 Years with Loudoun Youth
“Our business community is rich with future-minded thinkers who see the value of investing in our youth. We have been fortunate to have the connections to, and support of, local businesses. They have been instrumental in Loudoun Youth raising and investing more than $1 MM for youth programs in the county.”
– Carol Kost, founder
“Loudoun Youth’s programs create a ripple effect of positive changes in the community because our programs are built to empower the youth, connect them to a greater community and give them the leadership skills necessary to make positive changes. The lives they touch in positive ways in the future continue the legacy of Loudoun Youth, Inc.!”
– Jared Melvin, President and CEO
1. What is Loudoun Youth’s mission?
Our mission is to work closely with our community partners to develop and deliver youth serving programs that empower, connect and provide leadership opportunities for the youth of Loudoun County.
In other words, we support and develop programs that provide Loudoun youth positive out-of-schoolactivities in safe environments, helping them become confident and contributing members of the community. Our programs reach out in diverse ways, offering something or someplace for everyone.
2. How did Loudoun Youth begin?
Loudoun Youth was conceived to work here, in Loudoun County, based on two research efforts in the the late 1990’s/early 2000’s: The Listening to Youth project, which literally listened to the issues, needs and desires on the minds of more than 600 young county residents, and a study out of George Mason University which further defined the needs of Loudoun’s youth.
Those insights and recommendations helped chart a course for Loudoun Youth and established a close
relationship with our young citizens. That connection has kept our programs and initiatives aligned to changing issues and times for more than a decade.
3. How did you get involved in Loudoun Youth, and who are the people we should know that help the non-profit run day-to-day?
I was lucky enough to be there from the beginning. Loudoun Youth was initially conceived and supported by leaders in government and business who were listening to the youth, parents, educators and other community members. What began as a modest effort togrow and coordinate youth programs has matured into a model nonprofit that engages its audience, attracts supporters and volunteers, and continually taps into the thinking and issues of youth in our county.
Today, Loudoun Youth is guided by the leadership of a distinguished – and very hands-on – Board, representing some of the top organizations in the county. With Jared Melvin as President and CEO, and Steve Wolfson as our new Executive Director, Loudoun Youth has strong and sustainable support for our mission.
4. What are some of the biggest goals that Loudoun Youth has for the county?
With rankings as the richest county in the US and a top place to live, it’s easy to assume that everything is perfect and all we need is here. But our youth are not immune to the challenges and pressures of growing up and they still need guidance to make good choices about their future and become active citizens.
Our goal at Loudoun Youth is to provide leadership training, access to mentors and role models, and enriching activities to ensure Loudoun really IS a great place to grow up and that it will stay that way.
5. What have been the biggest challenges in the 10 years that Loudoun Youth has been in existence?
A George Mason study identified “belonging” as a key element for young people. We know that our youth desperately want places to belong. They seek groups in school, in their neighborhoods and along race, ethnic and income lines. These groups don’t include everyone, however, and they aren’t necessarily positive and accepting influences, so it’s vital for LY to support a network of diverse organizations where youth can explore their interests and talents, make friends, and interact with supportive adults, while they consider life’s choices.
Our challenge is to continually listen closely to what our young people want and need and to support or even create those places so everyone has somewhere where they can belong. Over the years, that has meant broadening our support, developing programs that we felt were “missing” and renewing our programs so they stay relevant. Teens are a diverse, fast-moving and dynamic target, so we actively seek input and direction from teen representatives and volunteers, get feedback from participants after each event, and give ourselves a reality-check by following social media.
6. What has been one of your favorite memories in the years you’ve been involved?
It’s difficult to pick one moment from our incredible 10 year history, but celebrating our Anniversary this spring, surrounded by so many of the people we’ve worked with, was a highlight. When someone comes up to you and tells you their story, what Loudoun Youth meant to them, there’s simply nothing better. Our youth alumni carry the strength and confident and leadership they gained in our programs out into the world and that’s a “win” in my book. It was a beautiful celebration of all we had worked for in our first 10 years and a great start to our next chapter.
7. How can people get involved in Loudoun Youth?
If you want to feel connected to Loudoun and make an impact on our future, volunteer with our youth. We welcome volunteers year-round. Our website is a great place to sign up for upcoming events, as well as find information about how companies and other organizations can be involved, from volunteering as a group, to lending their professional skills, to financial support of our programs.
8. What is your biggest need right now in terms of volunteerism?
We are always looking for business owners and business leaders who can share their passion and talents with our youth. The Loudoun Youth Advisory Council runs throughout the school year and preparations for the 2016 YouthFest are already underway.
9. Are there any big events that Loudoun Youth has coming up that you’d like us to know about?
Registration for this year’s Step Up Loudoun Youth will begin in October. This program encourages middle and high school youth to identify an issue in their school, neighborhood or community, plan to address it, and implement their plan. One of the winners this past year was a project called Charitable Act. The winning team helped underprivileged children attend summer drama camp.
Thank you Carol! Photos credited to Loudoun Youth. (Picture#1- “Board of Directors at 10th Anniversary Event in April 2015″ / Picture#2 – “Step Up 1st Place Finishers” / Picture#3 – “Step Up Your Health racers” / Picture #4 – Loudoun YouthFest 2015)