The Youth Engagement Advisory Council is co-chaired by Jennifer Sirangelo and Elisha Rhodes. Sirangelo is President and CEO of the National 4-H Council. Rhodes is interim CEO and COO of YWCA USA, Inc. As experts in developing young people’s potential, they bring expertise and insights to their leadership of the council.

In the following Q+A, these thought leaders who have dedicated their careers to the betterment of America’s youth, discuss their vision for the role of young people in leading change in our pursuit of a more perfect union. 

(left) Elisha Rhodes and Jennifer Sirangelo courtesy of YWCA USA and National 4-H Council

A250: What inspired you both to be co-chairs for this advisory council?

Sirangelo: To be a part of something this big – the celebration of America’s 250th anniversary – combined with the chance to empower America’s young people today and in the future – is a tremendous honor.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to shine a bright light on our nation’s youth – including their ability to create positive change and make a difference in their communities.

Rhodes: I am truly honored to be a part of celebrating America’s 250th anniversary in such a meaningful way. Finding ways to activate and center the voice and leadership of young people are critical parts of creating a stronger, more just, equitable union for the next 250 years and beyond. The intentionality and thoughtfulness of America250 inspired me to get involved.   

A250: What do you hope to accomplish as a co-chair pair?

Sirangelo: As President and CEO of the National 4-H Council, I’m a believer in young people and their power to change the world. I look forward to co-leading a diverse group of leaders who will embrace and create equitable opportunities for all young people.

Rhodes: I am hoping to partner with Jennifer Sirangelo to create synergy within the council. My hope is that the synergy will allow us all to bring our best individual and collective thinking to strategy meetings. And I hope we create innovative ways to move our work forward consistent with the goals of America250 and centering the needs and leadership of young people.

A250: What is your vision for the advisory council?

Sirangelo: Working with leaders committed to supporting and empowering young people is a tremendous opportunity. A large part of our nation’s history includes the courageous actions and bold thinking of young people – true leaders in every community. I believe there’s so much more we as adults can do to support and inspire young people to find their spark and help America thrive in the years to come.

Rhodes: My vision is that our work inspires and sparks larger nationwide wide conversations and actions to deeply uplift and invest in the present and future of our country. The voices and leadership of young people have been central to the progress of this country throughout many critical points of history. It is my vision and hope that, as a council, we can find ways to support the leadership of young people, for the betterment of all. 

A250: How will you know you’ve accomplished your goals?

Sirangelo: Two words: Youth voice. Creating opportunities for all youth to feel empowered, to know that their actions and words can lead to positive change in school, at work, and in their communities. That’s the definition of success.

A250: What does America need to know about your advisory council?

Sirangelo: Young people are leaders today and in the future. Their voices must be welcome and embraced.