An Interview with Mishelle Shooks, Program associate

What is YAC?

The Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) is a group of sixteen dynamic high school students from Charlevoix County high schools that come together to identify the needs of young people in our area. They are responsible for making informed recommendations regarding grants from our foundation's Youth Fund, and they are encouraged to get involved through volunteerism. These students are motivated to make positive change happen in regards to youth issues. The students represent all communities in Charlevoix County, and are from Beaver Island Community School, Boyne City High School, Boyne Falls Public School, Charlevoix High School, East Jordan High School, and Northwest Academy.


How many times a year does YAC meet?

Currently, our YAC meets four times per year for full day sessions. These sessions consist of an orientation, two grantmaking sessions, and a site visit and community service session. The students are also invited to attend events for programs that they have helped fund through the Youth Fund and a Youth Grantmakers Summer Leadership Conference for further training and teambuilding. With the recent addition of the YAC Executive Committee, we are now able to engage this elected group of students, in taking on a higher leadership role with their YAC peers. These positions include a President, Vice President, Treasurer, and Secretary. The responsibilities of these four individuals are increased as they join in the efforts to running a successful YAC meeting.


What inspires you about YAC?

It is so inspiring to see young people leave their letter jackets at the door, and come together for a bigger purpose. These teens are not afraid to ask the tough questions, take a stand, and create positive change.


What do the kids involved learn from YAC?

While in YAC, the students learn about grantmaking and how to identify needs in our area and begin to address those needs. In the bigger scope of things, these kids learn how to be great philanthropists, leaders, and community members as they continue throughout their careers and lives.


What does YAC do for our community?

YAC supports a variety of programs throughout Charlevoix and Emmet Counties, including a wide-range of programs designed to better life for our region's youth. In addition, the skills and awareness built from YAC will help to build the foundation for conscientious community members contributing to a stronger future.



“YAC is fun because you are surrounded by a great group of students and adults who are funny, nice, and incredible people. I like YAC because we are able to work with an amazing group of people to benefit the community. We also get great food and go on extremely fun site visits!” – Casey Keane, East Jordan High School


“I love being a part of YAC. I get to meet new people and work together to help make the community a better place for the youth. It’s so much fun being involved in the background work of these different community organizations.” – Erin Yafen Boyle, Beaver Island Community School


Cultivating Talent 

Early Experiences with Philanthropy Produce Lifetime Visionaries

When Christie (Heller) Perdue joined the Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) in 1996, she was most excited about taking a plane flight from Beaver Island to the mainland. It wasn't long, however, until she realized her experiences on the YAC would influence her far beyond the quarterly meetings. Christie grew to love solving problems through philanthropy, and she even when on to write a curriculum to help other community foundations develop their own youth advisory boards. She's made a career in philanthropy and development and believes getting youth involved early can have a lasting impact.

“Keeping talent and cultivating it is so crucial for small towns,” explains Christie. “Communities who have leaders emerge at a young age will reap the benefits later on.”

YAC helps young leaders emerge in Charlevoix County, getting them interested in philanthropy, and teaching them valuable leadership skills. Elizabeth Hodgson, YAC President (2012-13), says she's learned a lot in her years on the committee. “I've learned about the responsibility we have of knowing what the needs are in our community and deciding how to designate funds to meet those needs.” In 2011-12 YAC distributed $29,000 in grants.