Does Your Board Include a 12 year old? Maybe It Should!

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November 15, 2011; Source: Walton SunIn Florida, the new Friends of the Walton County Animal Shelter counts itself lucky to have the enthusiasm, energy, and ideas of its first (we assume) 12-year-old trustee in Jessica Anth. Jessica is a seventh grader with web design skills, so when she heard that the shelter was struggling with its lack of an online presence she offered her talents through the board’s president, Bill Baird. In September she was invited to join the board in recognition of her commitment and skills. She subsequently arrived at the next board meeting with a power point presentation, laying out how she thought the Friends might be able to contribute more to the shelter.

Jessica has had a long-standing interest in animal shelters and has been visiting them since she was small. The interest in computers developed later in life – at age six.

Here is what NPQ thinks. We have long had argument with all of the bemoaning of a lack of empathy and leadership among the younger set. In fact, we think the trend is moving in the other direction, and the young leaders among us deserve more intensive partnership and nurturing and less studying from a distance. –Ruth McCambridge

  • Mark Schwartz

    Dear All,

    A colleague in Portugal sent me this article. We work together for a European non-profit that runs international education and research projects in biofeedback. Our youngest team member so far is 6-years old. We regularly employ young people on our teams and believe that the future of the world really is in the hands of the young. Congratulations to Jessica for her initiative and enthusiasm and to the Walton County Animal Shelter for having the good sense to bring Jessica onto the board.

  • Alexandra Peters

    Hmm. If I were on this board, I’d check right away to see if the state of Florida has a minimum age requirement for board members. (I believe it’s 18.) And then I’d think hard about about giving responsibility for financial issues to someone who probably hasn’t taken algebra yet.

    It’s just great that Jessica is such a go getter, and I’d bring her on to the team – but not to the board. The board as a decision making body has serious responsibilities better suited to people with a bit of life experience. Do you really want a 12 year old deciding whether you should merge with another organization, if the ED should be fired, or if you are insolvent? I think I’d be uneasy serving on a board with someone who had an equal vote to mine, who has made no major life decisions on her own yet.

    Let Jessica forge ahead with her great ideas. Nurture those leadership qualities. She obviously has skills and enthusiasm. But web design and power points aren’t enough. Nonprofits deserve real leadership, from other adults.