Michael Nagle, a member of the Columbia Festival of the Arts board, is eager to attract high school students to the annual cultural event that he helps organize and promote each year.
He thinks his new recruit, Alisha Stephens, will help.
Alisha, who will be a senior at Atholton High School, is one of nine high school students who will serve on local nonprofit boards for a year as part of a new program called Youth on Board, created by Leadership Howard County and sponsored by the Horizon Foundation.
Last week, seven of those students met representatives of the organizations they will help. The room at Leadership Howard County hummed with energy as conversations skittered from talk of fund-raising goals to ways to get more young people involved in public service.
Nagle said Alisha's love of music and her connection with students will bring fresh ideas to the Columbia Festival of the Arts board.
Alisha, a member of her high school's marching band and symphonic wind ensemble, plays clarinet and piano.
"She's already a musician, so she's into art," Nagle said. "She's particularly appropriate for marketing and programming because we're always looking for a new audience, particularly a youth audience."
Alisha has ideas for attracting more young people to the festival. The key, she said, is creating buzz. "I think the place to start would be in the schools. Word of mouth is really important."
Youth on Board, modeled on a program in Tucson, Ariz., recruited students through the Horizon Foundation and Leadership U, a four-month leadership development and community service program for high school juniors, said Laurie Remer, assistant director of Leadership Howard County.
Leadership U, run by Leadership Howard County, is separate from the school system, though students are recruited through the schools, Remer said. Each year, it accepts about 35 students, who form teams that meet regularly to develop and implement public service projects.
When Remer learned of the Tucson program, she decided to see whether it could be replicated in Howard County.
She wrote a grant proposal and won $8,500 from the Horizon Foundation to pay for training for the students, Remer's visit to Tucson and materials.
"I'm really excited, in case you can't tell, about this program," Remer told the teens and board members as the Wednesday session wrapped up.
Last month, the students participated in an intense three-day training session with a local consultant, Mimi O'Donnell.
"We actually had mock board meetings, we taught them Robert's Rules," Remer said. "We had mission and vision statements, and they also did a marketing and PR plan."
Students at that point chose three local nonprofit boards that interested them, and Remer matched the students with their interests. "I was able to match everyone to one of their choices," she said.
Fana Mersha, who will be a senior at Long Reach, chose the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults because she is interested in learning about cancer. She plans to be a doctor and volunteers at a hospital. Her first assignment for the board will be to help with a golf fund-raiser next month, she said.
Her schedule is busy, but she is confident that she can handle the extra work. "I'll just have to plan ahead of time," she said. "As long as I plan ahead, I should be fine."
Samuel Zients, who will be a senior at Glenelg Country School, also chose the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. He said he enjoyed his experience with Leadership U and thinks Youth on Board will be a good experience.
The students will be treated as full participating members of the boards, attending regular meetings, serving on committees and sharing ideas.
"I really intend to make him a full participant," said Rachel Miller, director of corporate relations for the American Heart Association in Howard County. Any additional work training the young board member will pay off, she said.
"It means extra responsibility, but also an extra resource," she said.
Other students participating in Youth on Board are Cathy Barker, Centennial High School, on the HC DrugFree board; Bradley Booker, Archbishop Curley, on the Columbia Foundation board; Brittni Deale, Archbishop Spalding, on the board of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults; Erin O'Connor, Long Reach, on the STTAR Center board; and Lindsay Stiepler, Howard High, with the Local Children's Board.