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New youth council gives teens voice on government affairs

SNOHOMISH — Ten Snohomish High School (SHS) teenagers have joined the ranks of city advisors through an ad hoc Youth Council established by City Council President Jason Sanders.
“I wanted to join because I wanted to show young people can be leaders,” said 16-year-old Eden Anana.
Youth Council member Austin Taylor, 17, added that the group offered students an opportunity to “grow as leaders and become more independent ourselves.”
City Councilwoman Linda Redmon joined Sanders as a liaison for the project and both council members are excited to see it materialize.
The youth council members will not just attend meetings for show. Their curriculum includes hands-on engagement learning about city operations.
The high schoolers have begun learning the “how” and “why” of Snohomish government, and are just beginning to tackle the “what.”
Sanders intends for the students to advise the city on youth engagement projects and propose one or more resolutions to undertake at the start of the new school year.
He said he is not involved to give direction as much as to clear roadblocks.
Youth councilmembers met May 20 to brainstorm a survey process that would engage the highest number of their peers.
During the first week of June they will be surveying students throughout the elementary, middle and high school systems. Survey results will determine what type of project the council undertakes.
Sanders said the council’s youth engagement could lead to smaller events, too, through other community partners, such as poetry slams at a cafe or Police Department ride-alongs.
Riley Yeoman, 16, saw himself as a good fit for the new group: he is already involved in student government and enjoys outreach. Plus, he sees the need.
“There’s not much fun stuff to do around town besides hang out in the parking lot,” Yeoman said.
Sanders will leave choosing a project to the young leaders but shared two examples; the first, to entice a bowling alley to a vacant building; the second, to revitalize the old Seattle-Snohomish Mill site for use as a concert venue.
The youth council members will serve one-year terms. The current roster includes students from ninth through 11th grades.
While there are no AIM High School students serving on the council yet, Sanders said engagement at AIM is important: Social studies instructor Thom Engel and his students are already informed and excited about the project.
SHS government and history teacher Kaci Cowan said she was excited at the prospect of engaging students in government beyond just encouraging them to vote.
“My hope is that our youth feel engaged and empowered, and that our efforts serve as a model for other municipalities to engage their youth, as well,” Redmon said.
Sanders said he is looking forward to them joining other civic groups at the city’s end-of-year celebration dinner, even if they will be toasting with soda.


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