GREENFIELD — Greenfield City Council members approved the formation of a youth council in partnership with Greenfield High School during their Oct. 13 regular meeting.
The motion passed declared official intent by the city, with the two entities now needing to work out such details as numbers, responsibilities, term duration, budget and selection process.
“Youth Councils, or Youth Advisory Boards, can provide an effective way to engage youth in city government,” said Paul Wood, Greenfield’s city manager. “They provide a conduit for youth voice to city leadership that helps promote civic engagement and community service and fosters an understanding of how municipal government works.”
“It’s much needed in Greenfield,” added Yanely Martinez, Greenfield’s mayor pro tem. “It’s long overdue.”
Martinez said not only was she excited to see momentum in the formation of a youth council, but also reflected on it being one of the first items she wanted to work on when elected to the council.
“What better than the youth council, so they could bring to our attention issues that pertain to youth?” said Martinez, adding that youth helped in the Prop 68 planning process and their bringing a Vanessa Guillen mural to the city’s attention. “I applaud the effort of this new high school principal that is coming with that intent of let’s make it happen.”
Martinez went over her recommendations for the formation of the group, noting encouragement for all ages of high school students to become members and one-year terms. She also felt they should be paid a stipend at the end of their term for the work they put in with assisting the council.
Martinez said the learning would come from being able to individually shadow the mayor, mayor pro tem and council members.
“Getting to know who our future leaders are going to be excites me,” said Council Member Angela Untalon. “We’re being positive influences in their lives.”
The rest of the council had similar ideas and discussed differences, such as Untalon considering two-year terms. No final plans were put in place, as the agenda item was merely to enter an agreement with the high school.
“We hope to do that in the next two to three council meetings so we’d be able to have a council framework worked out by sometime in December and move forward with getting members selected and serving as soon as possible after that,” Wood said.
He explained the advantage to having youth councils, not only to have an advisory role to city leaders, but also to foster civic leadership and engagement within local youth.
“Almost 23% of the U.S. population is under 18,” Wood said. “Young people need to be vested with the knowledge and skills to be the next generation of local leaders. Youth councils promote regular and active civic engagement.”
Wood said there was support from both the city and high school for the youth council.
“It’s a small investment from the current leaders to help our future leaders,” he said.