Youth in Government

When Does YIG meet?

YIG meetings are held on the 1st and 3rd Mondays of each month at 6:30 p.m., at ECKAN, 1320 S. Ash, in Ottawa.


Be the voice of youth in local decisions


Gain first-hand knowledge of local government


Travel to Washington, D.C. and other great locations


Serve as an ambassador for the City of Ottawa at various functions


Scholarship opportunities

Youth in Government is a nationally recognized youth program. Members participate in local, state and national activities and have had the opportunity to travel to places such as Atlanta, Washington DC, Salt Lake City, Orlando and Nashville. Since 2002, 14 YIG members have spoken directly to their representatives in Washington DC regarding youth concerns.

The role of YIG members is taken very seriously by adults in the Ottawa community. Each YIG member is appointed to a community board, committee, or taskforce so that there is a youth voice present and expressed. Youth choose from the following: School Board, Ottawa Recreation Commission, Library Board, City Commission, Main Street Association to name a few. More than just sitting at the table, youth are charged with being the voice of their peers to keep adult decision-makers informed of concerns, issues, suggestions, and ideas the youth of Ottawa may have.

YIG was created to provide students with an atmosphere that promotes increased self-esteem, positive personal growth and development, a sense of empowerment, and a respect for the uniqueness of others. All youth who take part in YIG will hopefully come away with the knowledge that they are a vital and worthwhile segment of our community who can affect real and direct changes. Each year, the group is responsible for planning, coordinating, carrying out, and reflecting on one major community service project.

In addition to active participation at meetings, Youth in Government members are required to organize, implement, and reflect on a major community service project.

From 2003-2007 YIG hosted a Leadership Camp for local youth.

In 2008, YIG members chose to lobby Ottawa’s City Commission to make changes in governance that would directly impact its citizen’s health. ECKAN’s Youth in Government program conducted 6 months of research,  including summarizing the Surgeon General’s Report and surveying local civic groups and health professionals, as well as local middle and high school students.  The results from these groups indicated very strong support for a Clean Indoor Air Ordinance for Ottawa.  Once YIG challenged the Ottawa City Commission to act upon this, they City hosted a Public Forum and asked the YIG members to kick-off the forum with their findings.  Though the issue of clean indoor air had surfaced occasionally in the last several years, it was the work detailed above by 8 of Ottawa’s youth who make up the Youth in Government program that finally made the City Commission move the item forward.  On December 5th, Ottawa, KS became the 25th city in Kansas to pass a clean indoor-air ordinance protecting citizens from secondhand smoke in all restaurants and public places.  This means that the approximately 13, 000 citizens of Ottawa, as well as thousands of visitors, were given the opportunity to breathe smoke-free air while dining and in public places beginning June 1, 2008 thanks to the efforts of the 8 Youth in Government members sponsored by ECKAN.

Quote from a Youth in Government Member 2007-2008

“I believe YIG has given me the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and has made me familiar with my community. I was part of the Clean Air Ordinance which helped me change something I didn’t enjoy about Ottawa.” – Abby Guenther

In 2009 & 2010, YIG members took the lead in the Ottawa community in sustainability and environmental awareness.  Thanks to these young people, 130 rain barrels were constructed and community members were educated by youth on their benefits and proper maintenance.  In addition, Kanza Park is now home to the first-ever community raingarden to help alleviate stormwater issues in that area.

In 2010, YIG members chose to address an issue very close to home.  Like many teens in Ottawa, they too would complain that “there is nothing to do and nowhere to go in Ottawa.”  When surveyed, 8 out of 10 local teens cited boredom as the leading cause of harmful activities such as drug abuse, sexual activity, and vandalism.  These harmful choices become burdensome to not only the teens, but also to parents, law enforcement & courts, schools & teachers, and local businesses.  Through months of hard work, these youth worked to identify and promote recreational opportunities already in place for the teens (ages 13-18) in Ottawa through Community YouthMapping. Community YouthMapping is when youth, in this case ECKAN’s YIG members, canvass their community in search of places to go and things to do. Youth “mappers” use a survey tool to gather the information on the resources available for youth locally.  The result of this hard work is The Teenager’s Guide to Ottawa, Kansasa full booklet with activities, separated by season, and includes contact information, addresses and prices. By distributing over 400 of these guides at school enrollment, YIG members hope the guide will help teenagers find productive things to do in the community instead of traveling elsewhere for their entertainment needs or resorting to harmful behaviors.

Quote from a Youth in Government Member 2007-2008

“What I enjoyed most about YIG is that I really got a sense of knowing what is going on in the community. Before, I didn’t really care or know. Now I can say I know where the money is going and what is changing in my town. Also, it was so much fun being able to travel to Washington, D.C. for a conference to learn about other cities programs from their youth.” – Darrah Jorgensen

For more information, contact Valerie Tindill at 785-242-7450 ext. 7205 or