Dover's new Youth Advisory Council will act as a liason between teens and the City Council
Sarah Harris got lost on her way to the Dover City Hall.
The 17-year-old Caesar Rodney High School student said she doesn’t know much about Dover City Council or government, which hopefully will change now that she has become a member of the new Youth Advisory Council.
Sarah and 13 other teenagers were sworn in Feb. 18 to the newly formed committee, which was more than a year in the making. It was created to act as a liaison on issues affecting youth by involving them in social, cultural and recreational activities, as well as giving advice and assistance to council on matters concerning the needs of youth.
“I like to make a difference and I hope I do,” said Meghan Harris, also a CRHS student.
The youth, ages 14 to 17, shared their desires to bring new energy and ideas such as more arts activities, environmental activism and an ultimate Frisbee game back to their schools. Amanda Mullnack of Caesar Rodney High said she’d like to get peers who wouldn’t normally participate in the government and activities.
“I think if we encourage it, they are more likely to attend,” added Sarah who was standing nearby.
The committee is the brainchild of Fourth District Councilwoman Sophia Russell who said it’s all about where the youth want to go.
“I want to emphasize that this is your committee,” she told the group, adding that whatever direction they take will be up to them with the help of council and city staff to work as facilitators.
Russell got the idea for the committee after attending government conferences where they held youth advisory sessions and said she wanted the young people around Dover to have a voice in the community.
“I have been fortunate to serve the community in a variety of roles for many, many years. But my colleagues and I know that we cannot continue serving forever,” she said to the youth.
“You represent our future. It makes sense to educate young people today so there will be an informed group of people making decisions and providing leadership tomorrow.”
The majority of the committee members already are leaders in their school through various clubs or athletics, and many promised to bring leadership to the committee, including Dover High student Jack Knox, president of the school’s Republican club, who said he has had practical experience organizing.
Mayor Carleton E. Carey Sr. said while the students will learn a lot, they also will gain insight into how the city works and get a chance to participate in the process. He afterward administered the oath of office, which is the same as the one that city council members take.
However, Russell hopes council will learn from the youth as well.
“As adults, we are often uninformed on youth culture and trends,” Russell said.
Originally the committee was supposed to have nine members, but council’s Parks and Recreation Committee decided to include all applicants.
After the meeting, Russell said frankly she was surprised they got as many applications as they did. She was hoping to get at least one. She feels it’s important to get youth involved early so they are more likely to participate and vote when they get older.
Joiya Goldsboro of Dover High saw an application in the main office and decided to send it in because youth need to speak out to make sure the community is better, especially with this economy.
“I think we should have a voice because we are the future of the world,” she said.
Email Jayne Gest at email@example.com