Snapshot: Washington Youth Council Links Service to Graduation

May 23, 2013

Students make Washington state the second in the nation to make community service as a graduation requirement.

On May 9, 2013, Governor Inslee signed into law a bill that makes Washington state the second in the nation to include community service as a high school graduation requirement.

The new law (House Bill 1412) owes a big debt to young members of the Washington state Legislative Youth Advisory Council, who worked with state legislators and testified in front of a Senate committee in March on legislation introduced by Rep. Steve Bergquist (D-Renton).

Designed to build a culture of service and community connection among all students in the state, the bill amends the state’s official graduation requirements to include a provision that “each student must complete community service, to be explained and documented using the student's culminating project.”

It goes into effect this summer, which means the graduating class of 2017 will have to complete community service in order to earn a diploma.

The bill allows school districts to establish additional parameters and requirements of their own, and to define what activities count and how they will be tracked.

“The legislature finds that volunteering connects students to their communities and provides an opportunity for students to practice and apply their academic and social skills in preparation for entering the workforce. Community service can better prepare and inspire students to continue their education beyond high school. Community service is also associated with increased civic awareness and participation by students,” the bill’s text reads.

“Our system of democracy is built upon this idea that every person has a voice and a role to play,” Bergquist said. So that’s what this law is about, and I can’t wait to see what our students accomplish.”

Hannah Russ, 17, was one of the youth Council members who testified during the Senate hearing, says that having your voice heard is an important first step in becoming engaged. You may not think you care about community services, she says,  but “by getting involved, you'll have a change of heart."

About the Council

The Washington State Legislative Youth Advisory Council was established by legislation in 2005 to give young Washingtonians a way to express their politic al voices. In 2009, the Legislature passed a bill reauthorizing the Council indefinitely.

Typically, 22 youth ages 14 to 18 serve two-year terms with the purpose of the of ensuring that the interests and opinions of Washington’s youth are heard by the legislature.

LYAC reviews applications and recommends applicants to the Lieutenant Governor, who makes final appointments. Members who have finished their terms are replaced each July.

Hannah Russ, 17, tells SparkAction: “Each year LYAC established priorities to reflect the interests of our state's diverse youth such as health and crimes against youth. We gather ideas and information on these priorities from across our state in several ways: summits, surveys, and conversations with youth non-profits every corner of Washington to name a few.”

“These priorities are changed each year to accurately reflect the diverse interests of youth in our state. We would love to see a Washington where kids can achieve their maximum educational potential, have their basics rights protected, and live a healthy, safe, and happy life,” she says.

Connect with the LYAC on Facebook.

This snapshot is part of SparkAction's Youth Impact  series, short profiles of youth councils and commissions that are influencing local and state policies and practices. SparkAction is producing this series in partnership with the youth-led Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council and with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

To suggest an impact story, please contact Caitlin Johnson, managing editor, at

All images courtesy of LYAC.