by Eliza Shearing, Youth Council Member 2017-2021 & Board Member 2020-2021
I joined the AAACF Youth Council in my freshman year of high school and now, at the University of Michigan, I’ve realized how much the Youth Council was an instrumental part of my life and taught me things that will help me far into my future. One thing that I especially valued about the Youth Council was the amount of learning that happened. Every year, in order to delve deeper into our funding priorities, we listened to and participated in different activities centered around these priorities. For example, we discussed systemic racism in our community and how it plays a role in youth wellbeing; mental health among our youth and how there are varying aspects to mental health; children with disabilities and how their lives differ from those who are able; the lives of youth in the juvenile division of the probate court, and so much more. Whether it be in my English or Public Health classes as a freshman at U-M, these discussions prepared me for not only more controversial topics, but they also gave me the knowledge to connect stories or health to my community.
For my junior and senior year on the Council, I had the pleasure of being on the leadership team. In my role, I was able to determine and plan each meeting and certain areas of discussion that we wanted to focus on. Being on the leadership team enhanced my communication skills, and made me more aware of different types of leaders, better preparing me for my future at school and in my work. Having multiple roles to juggle also made me much more adaptable for college, where I now know how to handle both class and extracurriculars.
I felt my time as the Youth Council trustee representative with the Board of Trustees could not have been better placed. I was able to participate in the strategic framework planning for the next five years of the foundation, having conversations that I never thought I would. I worked alongside the AAACF board members to foster their new core values: prioritizing community, pursuing equity, earning trust, leveraging knowledge, and enhancing collaboration.
Not only did the Youth Council introduce me to an entirely new space, but the experiences that stemmed from the Youth Council were so enlightening. Before I joined the Youth Council, I envisioned myself becoming a doctor or becoming a nurse, but after dipping my toes into philanthropic work for four years, I realized that I wanted more. From YC, I found a passion, and a future career, in public health. Public health is my way of mixing what I learned from Youth Council and what I want in medicine. The work we did, whether it be volunteering, reading and reviewing grants, or listening to guest speakers, gave me opportunities and new perspectives that are irreplaceable.