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The Youth Activities Committee Program Manual (YACPM), and periodic Grand Lodge Amendments are excellent resources for youth activities.  They are a great place to start but should be viewed as a guideline and in no way limiting.  You can run your program(s) however you like.  The teenager of the month is a good example. 

There are five basic elements of an effective student/teenager recognition program - school involvement, the nomination process, the selection process, the award, and publicity.  School involvement is the key to a successful program.  But, the other elements must be in place, or at least decided upon, before approaching the school (s).   

The YACPM recommends that the school select and submit the student/teenager of the month.  But, this works if there is only one school in your lodge’s area, you’ve chosen to only recognize students from one school or, you will give out awards for multiple schools.  At Gateway, there are eight public and private high schools in our area.  We’ve found the best way is to notify the schools of our program and how to apply.  We also have a great website that has information on the program and a simple online nomination process.   There is also a downloadable form that may be printed and mailed or dropped off.  The website is www.gatewayelks.com under honored youth. 

In our experience, the majority of nominations come from school counselors but principals, teachers and even parents have made submissions.  As stated above, you could allow the schools to make the choice or have a committee select the winner.  You may choose to apply objective criteria, such as grade-point average, numbers of varsity letters, letters of recommendation, etc.  There also a subjective factor as different teen’s activities may require more effort or have a greater impact on their school and the community.   

It will also be necessary to decide whether or not you wish to limit nominations from schools outside your area.   As stated earlier, there are 8 high schools within the Gateway “area.”  Nominations are solicited from only these schools.  However, other metro-area nominations are accepted as long as the lodge for that area does not currently have a program.  For example, Oregon City lodge has a program and any nominations from that area would be referred to that lodge.  This is where inter-lodge (district) communication is crucial. 

In the case of Gateway, once a nomination is received, it is placed into a nomination folder.  At selection time, around the beginning of the month prior to the award, the folder is passed around to the committee members one at a time.  They arrange their picks in order of preference.  The picks are recorded in a matrix format whereby each pick is awarded a point value.  First choice equals one point – second choice, two points and so on.  The folder is then passed to the next committee member. 

This has the advantage that the committee members don’t need to be all at the same place at the same time.  After all members (or a sufficient number of) members have voted, I tabulate the results and the person with the lowest point total wins.  This also allows each committee member to apply his or her own criteria.  When a committee member knows the nominee, to a point where there might be real or perceived bias, that committee member should consider abstaining from that particular selection process.  Again, this is merely an example of how it could be done.

The award can be as meager or elaborate as you wish.  This most often boils down to what your lodge can afford.  The Grand Lodge certificates are free, and available from your district chairman.  At Gateway, the teenager and parents are hosted by the lodge for dinner on the night of the award presentation.  The teenager receives a nice plaque, the Grand Lodge Certificate of Achievement and a check for $50.

Check -               $50 

Plaque -               $29

3 dinners -           $27

Grand Lodge Certificate – free

Frame -                $1 (from the Dollar Store – donated by lodge chairman)

Total -                   $107 per month

At Gateway, the current budget is for 7 monthly awards - October –April.  The Lodge also recognizes a teenager of the year during Elks National Youth Week in May.  The teenager of the year gets $250 and a trophy ($50).  Total annual budget for the program is less than $1100. 

Now, that a teenager has been selected, recognized and rewarded, FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE, let people know what you did!!!   If the presentation was not at a lodge meeting (before opening the lodge), announce it on the lodge floor.  Write an article for your newsletter with photos from ones submitted by the nominee or taken at the presentation.  Writing it in a press-release format will also help when your public relations person submits it for local publication, to ELKS magazine, and to the OSEA website.  Remember to cite the source of the photo for external release.

An old Air Force communications guideline was/is, “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them”.

  1. Tell people about the program – get school/community involvement - solicit nominations
  2. Select, recognize and reward the teenager.

Good luck with your program.  There are countless resources available to you - the YACPM, online manuals from Grand Lodge, district/state chairmen, other lodges, state and grand lodge member forums.

Mike Finch, Chairman

Youth Activities

Oregon State Elks Association