Youth Council gives input

The Reno Youth City Council, created to provide youth “with active, positive and safe recreational opportunities to increase their quality of life,” has grown and broadened in some unexpected ways.

My appointment to the Youth Advisory Board at the age of 16 was my first official exposure to the political process. Now at age 29, I’m serving as the Ward 3 representative on the Reno City Council and as the council liaison to the Youth City Council, championing the process of adopting youth as one of the city’s top six priorities.

About two years ago, the Youth Advisory Board changed its name to the Youth City Council. Since then, it has grown from four to 22 highly visible, motivated, creative and intelligent young people who are poised to make a positive contribution to their community. The young people modeled their monthly meetings on a parliamentary structure, and they requested that the Reno City Council allocate a budget of $50,000 for the fiscal year 2002-03. This funding enables the council to learn and go through the same budgetary process as the regular council. It provides the group with staff support and organization, and gives young people a permanent role in local government. This step alone upheld the council members’ confidence that others will follow in their footsteps. It also demonstrated the city’s commitment to youth participation in government.

Youth Council meetings and activities ensure that every one has a voice in the decision making process. The young people have created an environment that is engaging, and they play a key role in ensuring that youth issues are heard at the City Council level. Drawing on the energy of the Youth City Council enables us to take on projects that otherwise may go undone. In a Youth Summit held on Nov. 16, about 85 area students participated with local service providers to initiate a youth action plan which will be presented to the City Council in January 2003. In December, 15 young people will attend the National League of Cities Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, as the first Nevada youth delegation ever sent to a National League conference. During their attendance at the conference, the youth delegation will join local elected officials and other youth delegations from across the country to focus on building quality communities, ensuring safe cities, investing in our children and other timely issues that affect young people. The conference provides an extensive youth program and encourages the representatives to interact and participate in the overall conference agenda.

Upon their return from the conference, the Youth City Council will prepare an action report on youth program initiatives to present to the Reno City Council, Washoe County Commissioners and all seven of the city of Reno Neighborhood Advisory Boards. The participation in the conference and technical assistance the Youth Council members will receive will enable these young people to gain skills and experience in areas once reserved for their adult counterparts. It will prepare them as young leaders and future participants in our civic process so that our community, including our young people, views these future leaders as a solution and a community resource.