Washington County youth growing in leadership
As we felt the heartbreak and tragedy surrounding yet another school shooting, it was inspiring to see the response of the Florida youth and the youth throughout the nation.
It made me reflect on the youth of Washington County and their engagement on issues. Perhaps we can learn from the up and coming "iGens," as they are being called, especially those right here in Washington County.
Many Westside cities have already started to call on their youth for advice. The cities of Beaverton, Hillsboro, Tigard and Tualatin all have youth advisory councils or boards. Tualatin's Youth Advisory Council was started by Mayor Lou Ogden back in 1999 — before some of the current Youth Advisory Council members were even born.
Beaverton Mayor's Youth Advisory Board (MYAB) was born from the idea that our youth have a vital role and voice in shaping their community. One leader said our youth today are plugged into social media and likely more knowledgeable of what's happening on a local and national level than most adults were at their age.
The City of Hillsboro's Youth Advisory Council (YAC) was formed in 2006 as an opportunity for high school students to serve and improve the Hillsboro community by bridging the gap between youth and local government.
In Tigard, the Youth Advisory Council (TYAC) a growing presence within city government and the community. TYAC membership draws from a number of area schools including Tigard High School, The International School and Fowler Middle School. Tigard also utilized their city's youth during a Hamilton-type performance at the "State of the City" address last month, where the Tigard Choralation sang and rapped about the city's activities in 2017.
This month, some of the Westside youth advisory council or board members will join 150 youth delegates at the National League of Cities Conference in Washington, D.C. During the conference, youth delegates will convene with their peers to share perspectives and exchange ideas on key issues such as bullying, the opioid crisis, homelessness, infrastructure and gun control. One leader said the youth are challenged, and they in turn challenge us.
What is learned through the conference and other collaboration returns dividends back here on the Westside. One of the largest contributions the YAC has made to the Tualatin community is through Project FRIENDS, a day-long bullying prevention program for the City's fifth graders. This workshop, now in its 10th year, is researched, created and led by the 20 members of the Tualatin YAC. Project FRIENDS has engaged local youth in learning about positive decision-making and problem- solving, while encouraging respectful communication and acceptance of diversity.
Tigard utilizes their youth in assisting with events such as Trick-or-Treat on Main Street, Holiday Tree Lighting and Adopt-a-Highway. In 2016, Forbes magazine recognized TYAC for their use of a meme contest to raise awareness about a smoking ban in city parks. The youth are social media-savvy after all, so it's great to see their talents being used on an important issue.
Hillsboro's YAC is involved in events too and is currently coordinating a [email protected] It's also working with the city's Sustainability Task Force and the Hillsboro 2035 Community Plan to explore ways to reduce plastic bag use. Hillsboro's YAC works closely with city leadership, the Mayor and City Council to create civic engagement opportunities for youth, which includes councilors mentoring students at their bimonthly meetings and students shadowing the City Council at a Spring meeting. Hillsboro's YAC is also very visible during the "State of the City" address too, where they sit in the background at the council's seats, and they have played supporting roles in city videos.
Beaverton's youth are a voice to elected officials and decision-makers on issues facing the community. Beaverton leaders say the MYAB perspective is an important piece in shaping its city's future, since decisions made today, will be felt by the youth for decades into our future. Therefore, it's important that our MYAB delegates have a voice and seat at the decision-making table.
It's refreshing to see there is a future generation that not only can plug into technology, but is charged to be part of the policy making that affects us all. I am convinced that our future leadership, through difficult times and good times, will be in good hands.
Mike Morley is the president of the Westside Economic Alliance Board of Directors. He works at The Standard and can be reached at: westsidealliance.org