Youth Delegates Address Important Issues at Conference

Article excerpt

More than 125 youth delegates from California to Florida came together at the December 2005 Congress of Cities in Charlotte, N.C., to network, learn from each other's experiences and share ideas about issues facing their cities.

Discussions Among Youth

Youth facilitators kicked off the youth sessions by leading small group discussions of 10 to 12 youth around the issue areas of youth councils, youth summits, outreach to other youth and youth service.

Youth councils are one way in which the youth delegates are involved in their cities, giving feedback to the mayor and councilmembers and providing youth representation for the city. The councils represented at Congress of Cities are involved in:

* Conducting surveys,

* Leadership retreats,

* Youth government days,

* Fundraising (some youth councils raise their own funds to attend the conference),

* Giving grants to other youth who are involved in community service and

* Community outreach.

The youth delegates had many different ideas on how to reach young people, including working with teachers to sponsor events in schools, creating flyers and websites and using word-of-mouth to get youth involved in local issues.

The youth delegates also serve their communities in many different ways, from volunteering to serve meals at a shelter to adopting a family for a holiday.

Special Guest Speakers

The top NLC officers addressed the youth delegates. These included outgoing President Anthony A. Williams, mayor of Washington, D.C., incoming President James Hunt, councilmember, Clarksburg, W.Va., and incoming first vice president Bart Peterson, mayor of Indianapolis.

"James Hunt wowed the youth delegates (including this one) with an amazing spur of the moment speech," said Robby Saldana, youth delegate from Grand Rapids, Mich.

Michael Sessions, mayor of Hillsdale, Mich., was the featured speaker during the youth delegate meeting. Sessions, who is 18 and a high school senior, defeated the incumbent in a write-in victory in November of 2005.

"If I Were Mayor ..."

Mayor Sessions' experience prompted energetic discussion among the youth delegates.

"Since we were lucky to have Mayor Sessions speak to us about being 18 years old and a mayor, we thought it would be interesting to talk about what we as youth could do in our own dries if in the same position," said Asha McElfish of Fort Worth, Texas.

Each group of delegates was asked to come up with a "platform," describing what they would accomplish in their dries, and then campaign in front of the other delegates

"While we ran out of time to officially vote on whose platform was the best, it was easy to say we have plenty of great future public servants out there. …