With the strike of the gavel, the president of the youth government board gets everyone back on track. After a short discussion, the meeting resumes, continuing with sub-committee reports and details of youth liaisons.
Many youth government boards throughout cities take action to make a change. The San Carlos Youth Advisory Council (YAC) is one of many.
As a part of the organization, youth are trained by mentors from a diverse set of backgrounds. The students learn how they can make changes in the real world, rather than just a classroom setting.
As a youth director and advisor for the San Carlos YAC, Caitlyn Matoso has found that she has not only been able to pass her experience to the young leaders but has also learned a lot from the many young students she works with daily. She hopes her efforts further bridges the gap between the youth and adult communities.
“From my personal experience working with YAC, the impact the kids can have on the community is amazing. It’s huge!” Matoso said.
In the YAC, students get opportunities that aren’t available to the ordinary high schooler. Students not only learn about local government and political issues but also gain universally-applicable skills, such as discipline and focus.
As an active member of the YAC, senior Allie Ayers uses the knowledge she’s gained from the council to volunteer and improve her community.
“You can see how they can make a difference in their community like, at YAC, we volunteer a lot and help our community make a change,” Ayers said.
Although making a change can be difficult and sometimes impossible, the skills and benefits gained from these experiences can be unforgettable.
Benefits of being involved
Involvement in local government and operations teaches the younger generations about the basics of government. From running a meeting, discussing budgets, and to the approval of issues,there is a lot to learn.
“I think you learn skills like how to run a meeting and the whole process of getting things approved. You learn how everything does take a long time, and it is a lot of work,” Matoso said.
Being exposed to the complexities of governing and managing issues at a young age can be extremely beneficial for the rest of their adult lives. Gaining a better understanding of the process of balancing various concerns during meetings is an experience that most of the general youth population won’t practice until they are older.
The outcomes of these meetings may go unnoticed by many. However, local government decisions impact people’s lives significantly, as the governing body closest to the local community.Learning how these decisions get put in place helps people understand why these laws and ordinances were enacted.
“Participating in local governance is beneficial. I think it gives people a better idea of how government actually works, and you’d have no idea if you weren’t exposed to it from a young age,” Ayers said.
As a city council member for the city of Belmont, Thomas McCune has experience with local government and the involvement of the younger generations. He hopes to pass down his decision-making and communication skills to aid the next generation of workers.
“Communication, group decision-making, consensus, persuasion, and compromise are all important life skills learned by participating in local government. Those skills are equally important in the world of business and are quite transferable,” McCune said.
Bringing positivity to a community through change can also show a sense of reward and benefit to certain people.
“We live in communities. Helping shape those communities in positive ways benefits everyone, and the process can be intrinsically rewarding to the individual,” McCune said.
Many essential life skills are learned from little experiences during one’s time in youth government. These skills can also be used later in life when applicable.
Knowing your local representatives
Local representatives play a considerable role in the lives of their citizens. Their opinions and decisions can influence the laws put in place that govern schools, rent, and other essential services.
As the vice mayor of Belmont, Charles Stone has a great deal of influence on the operations and decision making in his city.
“Everyone should know who their locally-elected officials are. They’re responsible for plenty of things that affect everyday lives, a lot more than decisions made in Washington, D.C. do,” Stone said.
Local officials decide uncountable aspects of one’s daily life. Although the federal government’s actions are much more publicized, they are far less influential when it comes to people’s day-to-day lives in local communities. The way the municipal government devised the budget can have drastic ripple effects in the city.
People in power want to hear from the diverse set of perspectives that live in the city and will be affected by the change, to make sure that these decisions are sound. This notably includes the youth, who have a completely different point-of-view from the adults who make the laws.
“For me, it’s important to hear feedback and ideas from a diversity of sources. Young people see the world differently than we do; they pick up on issues and challenges we may not be thinking about,” Stone said.
Getting feedback on what the public wants and needs helps officials create a better community. Being a part of the voting group also allows one’s voice to be heard. The youth are experts in what they and their families want. Making those concerns heard influences policy.
“Knowing what the public wants is a big part, so it’s essential for us as voting members to make sure that we’re giving feedback to our local government,” Matoso said.
Familiarizing oneself with their local representatives also grants many benefits when trying to make a change. Having personal connections with people in power can give one leverage and help them help themselves in the process.
“I think knowing your representatives gives you leverage if you want to make a change in the community. You’ll already know the people to go to that can help you make that change, which makes it beneficial,” Ayers said.
Whether it’s being acquainted with one’s local representatives or having a secure personal connection with them, the benefits can be endless.
Change depends on how much is invested in a particular task. The experiences and skills taught are great, but nothing will ever get done with little determination.
“I think young leaders do make a sizable difference in the community. It depends on how invested they are, but I think that they definitely can expand their reach,” Ayers said.
Youth in government can make a huge change. Being invested in all one does is very important in making a difference within one’s community.
“As a ‘baby boomer,’ my generation still has a lot to contribute. But these days our contribution is one of the elder wisdom. We need a blend of that elder wisdom and youthful energy to build the best community for everyone!” McCune said.
Change comes in many forms. From local to global, young to old, everyone has the opportunity to make an impact. Once one learns how to govern locally, they can expand their influence globally.
The youth of today will become the prominent global leaders of tomorrow. Experiences and early training as young community leaders enable them to reach more significant leadership roles in the future.
“I think kids that have an interest in government tend to be people that pursue it from early on. In every generation, when it’s their turn to lead, they’re the ones that become the leaders,” Matoso said.
Leaders are the ones that make a change, and kids that start to learn the basics of government and politics from a young age tend to be the ones that stay most impact.
This story was originally published on Scot Scoop News on March 6, 2020.