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Speak Up and Be Heard

The idea behind the Board of Supervisors’ new Youth Commission is to give young people some hands-on experience in government. There are ten members of the Commission who are between the ages of 13 and 18. Supporting their efforts are four adult members of the community who are there to give advice and/or reality checks. The Commission meets once a month during the school year, and thus far has developed an action plan which shows which public policy issues the members want to work on. In addition to the action plan, the Commission serves in an advisory capacity to the Board of Supervisors. If the Board requests a youth perspective on a particular issue, then the Youth Commissioners will respond with a report.

If you are wondering what kind of Board deliberations would benefit from a youth perspective, here are two:

1) At a recent Board meeting, a topic under discussion was how to improve services for an effective transition from foster care to adult living when foster children reach the age of 18. Members of the Youth Commission attend school with foster children, and indeed, some Commissioners may even be foster children. Young people would certainly have a different way of looking at the problem than would the much older Supervisors, who are the decision-makers.

2) The second issue seems simple on the face of it, but it really is not. A Supervisor spoke at the same meeting about an experience in which he was trying to talk with two young people. He felt that they were speaking a different language. It stood out in his mind as a failed effort at communication. I think this topic will spark some good discussion at a Youth Commission meeting.

I hope that future voices will bring us new and stronger ideas for community growth and well-being. The Tuolumne County Youth Commission is a good place to start developing that line of thinking. Even though its focus is on the present-day, its impact will be heard down the road when these young voices-in-training become mature. The responsible thing to do is to help them prepare for a future which will include their leadership, and I’m happy the Board of Supervisors has chosen to make that happen.