By Makar, Rebecca
Nation's Cities Weekly , Vol. 27, No. 50
From California to Virginia, 90 youth delegates came together to learn from each other and share ideas about issues-including how to get these ideas onto both the national and local agendas.
Youth delegates commented that "youth are often underestimated" and that they have "new insights to offer to adults."
The youth had a lot to say on many different topics that they felt mayors and councilmembers should pay attention to.
One recurring theme was addressing teen violence, with gangs mentioned as a particular problem in some areas.
"Teen violence is a big issue that many do not realize even exists," said Maranda Tompkins, youth delegate from New Haven, Ind. "This exists both on the school front and on the home front."
One point of agreement was that youth and adults need to work together in order to combat this problem.
A lack of teen-oriented activities--or "nothing to do"--emerged as another common thread, no matter where in the country the youth were from. Having more teen-friendly activities, such as a club where youth under 21 could go, was suggested as a way for cities to engage their youth and allow them opportunities for positive activities.
One way to facilitate such opportunities is for cities to create teen centers. The youth thought such a center should be safe, positive and fun--a place where teens would want to hang out.
When asked to think about the most important national issues, the youth came up with many different topics they would like to present to President Bush.
Youth delegates advocated spending more money on domestic issues and less on war and international issues. The youth suggested the President lead the way for increased federal funding for education, lower college tuition costs and increased funding for public health, especially obesity prevention
The U.S. election system was a major focus of importance to half the youth delegates. There was some debate as to whether the voting age should be lowered to 16 or should remain at 18. Youth delegates were on both sides of this issue.
Representing one of the groups, Djamila Demangeat, from Santa Barbara, Calif., said, "What we want is not to move the voting age to 16, but to inform youth about political and worldly issues. It would be great if schools would require a politics class, or seminar, where youth discuss the issues" in order to be more informed. …