The Untold Story of Today's Youth

Insights from Ducks Unlimited CEO Dale Hall
If you pick up a newspaper today or watch the evening news on TV, chances are you'll see extensive coverage of youth involved in delinquent and even criminal activities ranging from underage drinking to drug use to violent crimes. These are truly sad stories, and they deserve the attention of society so that appropriate measures can be taken to help those in need of counseling or assistance, and to bring to justice those adults who corrupt our youth. But make no mistake, these stories do not accurately represent the majority of our hard-working, caring, and mature young people.

Ducks Unlimited's college and high school chapters may be among our best-kept secrets, but we're about to change that. In Fiscal Year 2013, history was made when DU's Lamar University chapter became the first "non-adult" chapter to make the President's Top 100. More than a year ago, during our 75th anniversary convention in Nashville, two young ladies, Jesi and Jami Courville, approached me and said, "Next year we're going to be the number one college chapter in the country." They did that, and more! The Lamar University chapter showed an energy and commitment to be number one that can serve as an example to us all of what we can accomplish when we truly believe in ourselves and in each other.

In 2012, the DU chapter in Gig Harbor, Washington, (a community chapter, not a school chapter) experienced a void in leadership due to some unforeseen shifts in the availability of its volunteers. There was a distinct possibility that the chapter would have to fold or at least skip that year's event. However, as an old saying reminds us, "whenever leadership finds a vacuum, it steps up to fill it." That's exactly what Madison "Maddy" Cheyney did. This high school senior, who had been attending DU events for much of her life, simply could not accept that her town would have to miss out on its annual DU banquet. With the help and support of her parents, Maddy assumed a leadership role. She put so much energy and enthusiasm into her work that Gig Harbor not only had a successful event, but also managed to achieve the largest net income in the chapter's history!

I recently attended the North Carolina DU State Convention. At the state committee meeting, someone asked, "How many here are under the age of 30?" I was amazed and thrilled to see nearly a third of the committee raise their hands. Among the wonderful young people attending this convention was Morgan Dunn. Morgan is a high school senior who helped create the Midway High School DU chapter. She and several members of the chapter attended the state convention to receive an award for successfully netting more than $25,000 and being named North Carolina's Chapter of the Year.

Stories like these are occurring all over the country. Ducks Unlimited volunteers and staff, led by Ronal Roberson and Mark Horobetz, are dedicated and passionate about getting our youth involved in DU. They are also committed to helping create places that provide wholesome alternatives to the bad choices that too many of today's youth are pressured into making. But none of this can happen unless we support the parents and wonderful youth who want to make a difference in the world they are inheriting. We have amazing young people who are excited about being DU Greenwings and high school or college chapter members. 

Let's help them get started and ensure that their stories make front-page news. Let the world know there's a home for all our youth in Ducks Unlimited. The future of natural resource conservation depends on it!