As a professor and as a parent, Colleen works with young people every day, and knows that young people’s insights are critical to a truly representative democracy.
Youth movements around the world have transformed the political landscape, and today’s youth movement is poised to do the same, through the 2020 and 2024 elections and beyond. Far from being passive recipients’ of services provided by adults, young people are doers and contributors. Colleen is committed to ensuring that they have a seat at the decision-making table.
What can we do?
- Create a new Baltimore County Youth Council. Government leaders can incorporate young people into the policy-making process through official channels that leverage their energy and ideas to solve real problems. Such channels move beyond the traditional student councils, which limit young people’s input in policymaking to their roles as students. Here in Baltimore County, besides the student councils that advise the county’s Board of Education, we have no official channels for young people to play any role in the policy-making process. As councilwoman, Colleen will work toward changing that by creating a new Baltimore County Youth Council, one that will represent the diversity of the county’s population.
- Conduct forums and surveys of youth perspectives. Such forums and surveys, conducted by the Youth Council, can help advise the council on key issues, such as identifying resource and opportunity gaps in County neighborhoods. After all, besides being students, our young people are also pedestrians, consumers of health services, neighbors in housing developments and in our public spaces and transportation networks, and fellow residents in areas with variable levels of pollution.
- Create youth-led projects around the county. Youth-led projects benefit the entire community, not just youth. When students at Benjamin Franklin High School in Baltimore City spoke out against a proposed incinerator in their neighborhood, for example, they succeeded in bringing its construction to a stop. One of the students who spearheaded the initiative continued her advocacy as a student at Towson University, where she partnered with faculty and NGOs to create an environmental justice curriculum for science teachers at Franklin High School. Similarly, in the months after the deadly shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, young people registered to vote in droves and deluged Maryland’s congressional delegation with letters and emails. Between February and May 2018, for example, nearly three times more people aged 16-25 years registered to vote than those aged 35-60-years, according to the Maryland Board of Elections. Read more about Colleen’s plan to establish youth partnerships with our seniors.
- Help youth keep peers informed about the Council’s activities and ways to get involved. By incorporating the energy and ideas of our young people, we can also enhance the civic engagement of their families and communities. Studies have shown that involving young people in election-related discussion and activities impacts the entire household, increasing the likelihood that others in the household will vote. In many immigrant communities, young people are often among the most effective messengers, being both easier to reach and often more fluent in English, providing a critical bridge to increasing often marginalized communities’ engagement with the political process.
For more information
- National League of Cities Youth Council
- National League of Cities, “Authentic Civic Engagement: a Guide for Municipal Leaders,” 2010
- State Municipal League Youth Council Resources
- Florida League of Cities Guide on creating youth councils
- Augsberger, Astraea, et al. “Youth civic engagement: Do youth councils reduce or reinforce social inequality?.” Journal of Adolescent Research 33.2 (2018): 187-208.
- Emily Nonko, “Stopping one incinerator wasn’t enough for Baltimore students,” Next City, June 13, 2018