Washington, D.C. – Youth Service America and Festival of Children Foundation announce that Mikayla Jo Balderas of Tipton will serve as Oklahoma’s 2013 Youth Ambassador. As one of 51 Youth Ambassadors selected from a nationwide pool, Mikayla will receive funding and training to lead an initiative to promote young artist development and the performing arts through a program she created called The Southwest Opry Kickstart Program.
Over the next year, she will attend various events where she will represent her title and promote performing arts. Mikayla made her first appearance as Oklahoma’s Youth Ambassador in OKC where she was asked to perform at the annual Septemberfest held at the Governor’s Mansion. Mikayla Jo will travel to Washington, D.C. in September, which is National Child Awareness Month.
In DC, Mikayla will attend leadership training and meetings with state officials. Mikayla then returns home to launch a campaign to recruit young performers in Southwest Oklahoma to participate in The Southwest Opry Show’s Kickstart program. Mikayla was selected through a competitive application process, and chosen based on the quality of her project proposal and its potential to create substantive, large-scale change on behalf of young people in Southwest Oklahoma.
Now in its sixth year, National Child Awareness Month is a program spearheaded by Festival of Children Foundation to raise awareness about issues affecting children and encourage the nation’s youth to take action. Senate Resolution 173, sponsored by Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), officially designates September as National Child Awareness Month.
The 51 Youth Ambassadors will work in their communities, and form a collective network to raise awareness around issues important to young people. Youth Ambassadors receive a national-level platform for their cause; a grant to develop a service project his or her home state; ongoing training, project and technical assistance support; and networking opportunities with other Youth Ambassadors across the country.
“These teens and young adults are the future of philanthropy. They understand the importance of making a difference and giving back. Festival of Children Foundation’s collaboration with YSA allows us to give these kids the tools to create a powerful youth network that will create lasting change across the country,” said Sandy Segerstrom Daniels, founder and executive director of Festival of Children Foundation.
Mikayla is a Freshman at Western Oklahoma State College in Altus where she majors in Music and Communications. She has performed as singer and public speaker for over 14 years for hundreds of audiences across the U.S. In 2007, at only 12 years old, Mikayla established the first annual, Southwest Opry Show (aka Mikayla Jo and Friends Show). The show has three goals: (1) To provide local communities with a quality, professional music show at a low cost; (2) To support the performing arts; and (3) To raise awareness and support for various non-profit organizations including Community Cupboard, ACMI House Battered Women’s Shelter, SW Enterprise, and local Arts & Humanities Councils. This Branson-style show has showcased over 100 guest performers, featuring a variety of entertainment and music.
Proving to be a success, the annual Opry show continues to grow and has since attracted the attention of several top artists including Country Artist, Bryan White, and one of the nation’s top Ventriloquists, Gary Owen. In support of the show’s overall mission to make a difference through music, Mikayla Jo’s new program, The Southwest Opry Kickstart program, will entail providing a number of workshops where professional speakers will mentor, encourage and develop young performers.
“Coming from a small, rural town, I’ve learned the importance of setting goals. Here, it’s not about taking opportunities, it’s about making them. I’m thankful for this opportunity to not only represent young performers and the performing arts for the State of Oklahoma, but also to be given the tools, funding and training needed to assist them in helping promote those young performers.” More information about The SW Opry Kickstart program can be found on www.southwestopryshow.com.
YSA (Youth Service America) improves communities by increasing the number and the diversity of young people, ages 5 to 25, serving in substantive roles. Through international campaigns such as Global Youth Service Day and Semester of Service; funding and grants programs; resource development; and training opportunities, YSA promotes a global culture of engaged youth committed to a lifetime of service, learning, leadership and achievement. For more information, visit HYPERLINK “http://www.YSA.org” www.YSA.org.
Festival of Children Foundation is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization that serves to bring together and coordinate the efforts of charities, companies and individuals who actively work to improve the lives of children. Festival of Children Foundation gives a voice, guidance and support. 100% of the administrative costs are covered by designated funding, allowing donations to go further in direct support of programs and services that improve the lives of children. For more information, please visit HYPERLINK “http://www.festivalofchildren.org” www.festivalofchildren.org.