Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Youth Voice in Action

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Youth Voice in Action

Article excerpt

Boston Teen Inspired by Shared Experiences

Youth delegates who attended last month's Congress of Cities in Kansas City, Mo. will be sharing their impressions of the event with local elected officials via personal accounts to be published in Nation's Cities Weekly during the coming weeks. Following is the first article in the series.

The National League of Cities is an organization to which I owe undying gratitude for the chance to be a youth participant and panelist for the 1998 Congress of Cities. As a member of the Boston Mayor's Youth Council and the Boston School Committee, I was excited about the chance afforded me to advocate for youth on a national level.

To be honest, I came to the conference somewhat on the skeptical side as to the amount of heed that would be paid to the youth delegates. Upon my arrival in Kansas City, however, all of those apprehensions were nullified. I was energized by the realization that NLC is an organization that has made an unprecedented commitment to the concerns of the youth of our nation, and has exhibited a sincere and genuine desire to work with youth in every endeavor to address these issues of concern.

The conference was altogether inspiring for reasons too numerous to elaborate, but I would like to attempt to convey the extraordinary value that I was able to take out of my time at the conference.

The panel discussions were of tremendous benefit. The panelists were knowledgeable about the topics upon which they spoke, and they provided a wide range of solutions to the issues addressed. This really did allow the members of the audience to consider a number of models, or combinations of models, that might be effective in their own cities.

The question and answer sessions were also very helpful, so that the audience could shape the conversation. I learned a great deal more about topics ranging from running effective summer programming, to the success of charter schools, to the creation of youth telephone hotlines.

Having youth on the panels not only made us feel more comfortable in asking questions and wanting to know more, but also provided positive examples of youth advocates, who inspired me to become more active in my own community. I was inspired to discover that I had the chance to learn from the youth who had worked so hard in their cities, and had become real experts in their fields. I was excited that these youth had the chance to teach adults, and work with them, instead of in spite of them.

I was also impressed by the sincere interest generated. I was a speaker on the panel entitled "Local Government Roles in Education: Education Is Everybody's Business." At the end of the session, I was bombarded by adults who wanted to know more about the topic. It was an amazing feeling to think that all the hard work that I had put into programs to advocate for youth in Boston could be replicated on a national scale, and that I would be able to share my work with others, so that other youth would not have to reinvent the wheel of youth advocacy.

I was overwhelmed when youth from other areas of the country approached me, and told me that they are working on the same issues in their cities as I am in Boston. …

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