Around the world, youth are seen as critical to educating families and other community members about disaster management. In the United States, youth have been used to a limited extent to spread the Firewise message, although this is an intended focus for 2012. Terry Mallet of the Eagle Promise Charitable Fund, Ken Pekarek of the GIS 4 Schools program and Sarah McCafferty of the USDA Forest Service (filling in for Pam Jakes who was unable to attend) discussed the classroom model that Minnesota and West Virginia use to educate youth and introduce them to Firewise.
Ken and Terry informed the attendees about how their program educated youth in their communities. Students in Minnesota and West Virginia complete risk and wildfire hazard assessments for communities. Sarah McCafferty additionally explained how the USDA Forest Service is working on a National Research Project on how youth can help programs like Fire Adapted Communities. She shed some light on a few of the things that outh programs need to emphasize to be the most successful, including balancing classroom goals with community goals, partnerships between schools and local community groups, evaluations on the progress of goals, and promotion of intergenerational learning.