LAKEWOOD, Ohio – Almost two years after the creation of the Lakewood Youth Council, the student-run organization is in need of new volunteers.
“The Youth Council is a great opportunity for young people to learn more about and engage with municipal government,” said Lakewood Mayor Meghan George. “It is also important for those of us in municipal government to hear from our young people and their perspectives on the issues that affect them. “
The 15-member Lakewood Youth Council is currently accepting applications resident students from the 8th year to the first year of the university.
“One of the challenges of this group is that every year seniors who attend college have to leave the self-proclaimed Youth Council,” said Melissa Garrett, Community Relations Specialist from Lakewood, who worked with the group.
“They have to spend time promoting, accepting applications, reviewing applications, interviewing students and finally selecting students. It’s sort of a revolving membership, which has presented some challenges in getting to the work the board wants to do.
Despite all the challenges, the rewards have been bountiful for the members of the Lakewood Youth Council, who are charged with interacting and informing community leaders, as well as providing opportunities for youth development.
Topics for engagement include youth health and safety, youth advocacy, community relations, and community outreach, but they also seek meaningful community change.
Collin Hunt, a senior at Lakewood High School who first joined the Youth Council Planning Task Force, which oversaw the creation of the group, said the experience had been rewarding.
“In all honesty, this is not what I do, but rather what I am able to do for the community,” Hunt said. “Over the past few years, there have been many reported incidents involving young people in Lakewood, from crime to mental illness to problems with the public school system throughout the pandemic.
“I feel like this is the best way to get involved and make a difference rather than just sitting around and complaining about a situation. Myself and others really have the voices to initiate change and the ears of the local government that are willing and eager to listen.
In terms of the criteria for appointing the Youth Council, Hunt said membership in the advisory council is not judged on credentials.
“We’re looking for people with diverse backgrounds, people who have strong leadership and communication skills,” Hunt said. “The members of the young people of Lakewood who have the will to improve the neighborhoods in which they live. If you see things in your community that you think you can improve upon, or want to gain experience by having a voice in local government, this is the way to go. ”
Even though the high school graduating season this spring means he will be leaving the youth council, Hunt implored future generations of students to take over from the large group.
“There really is no limit to the impact the Lakewood Youth Council can have on the community,” Hunt said. “There are so many opportunities in front of this board, not to mention the number of important discussions we have had in just over two years since its inception.
“The municipal council even came to ask us for our recommendations concerning the proposed plans for safety in public parks. The pandemic has led to many roadblocks, but that hasn’t deterred anyone. It is only a matter of time before we can get involved in some community projects and start playing a much bigger role on the town hall agenda as far as young people are concerned.
Lakewood Youth Council member Erin Ptacek, an elder at Lakewood High School, said she has used her interest in history and government to help her community.
“It was one of the few places where I felt I could be listened to and supported in my ideas and concerns as a teenager,” said Ptacek. “It was also a tangible way to express and create action for issues that I felt were unfair, which gave me a positive outlet for my passion for social change.”
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