Youth Engagement in Cheverly

A topic that has been raised multiple times during this election season, in one-on-one conversations and at the forum hosted by the Women’s Club, is opportunities for teens and young adults in Cheverly. The plethora of programming for children, through organizations like CPRC and the Boys and Girls’ Club, seems to drop precipitously once our young people become teenagers. This, combined with the complications of our local group VineCorps being able to use the gym, have combined to create a gap in teen programming.

I addressed my concerns about racial profiling when it comes to teens, both in my answers at the forum and in previous posts on this site. All of these discussions have led me to another potential idea that I have been researching—engaging youth directly at the municipal level. It seems to me that, beyond creating programs for these young adults, we should be making sure that we are giving them the power to help create and shape their community and how they engage with it. There are so many positive outcomes to this kind of model: young people are connected and develop key skills, the town opens up lines of communication with a subset of residents who can provide perspectives to aid in decision-making and future policies, and we can ensure that any future youth programs are created with input from all stakeholders.

My research so far has not been in-depth, as it is still in its early stages. But it seems like there are a number of successful models available that would ensure that our young people have a voice and a seat at the table. Our neighbor Hyattsville has information about a Teen Advisory Committee on their website, and I’m hopeful that if elected I’ll be able to connect with them about how it was formed and how we might do something similar. Here’s a story about it from a few years ago.

From the reading I have done so far, it seems clear that there is a wide range of youth engagement possibilities, from very adult-centered to youth-centered. Many articles reference “Hart’s Ladder,” which visualizes the continuum that these initiatives can fall on. This page, while nominally focused on health-related topics, has an easy-to-read rundown of these options. I would caution that it would be easy to fall into an adult-centered model here; it would be a priority for me to ensure that any youth advisory group formed would provide meaningful decision-making power in some way.

What do you think? Is there interest in engaging our teens and young adults in this way? Are you (or do you know) a teen who might be suitable for this kind of opportunity? Let me know!

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Nicole BrynerComment