August 3, 2014

Task force proposes standards for Merced youth council

The task force asked to set up parameters for a youth council in Merced has recommended what should be required of members of the board. The youth council is supposed to give young people a voice in town. Merced City Council will review the recommendations Monday.

The task force involved in designing a youth council for Merced has completed a list of requirements for its members, which will be reviewed Monday by the Merced City Council.

Seven young people were charged with gathering information and making decisions on the council to be made up of youth. The young people on the task force were joined by members of City Council, the Parks and Recreation Commission and Merced Union High School District.

Hunter Noble, who will be a freshman in college later this month, was chairman of the task force.

He said the youth council needs to be able to take the voice of young people and relay it to city leaders. “We wanted it to be a liaison for the voice of the youth, so there’s a connection,” the 18-year-old said.

The task force held two assemblies that gathered young people to discuss the youth council, and also met to develop some guidelines.

The task force has proposed that members of the youth council be 13 to 19 years old, fill out an application and live in Merced. If the applicant is enrolled in school, which is not required, he or she must carry a 2.0 GPA or better.

Merced once had a youth commission for a number of years. It helped design a skate park but had problems recruiting members and was eventually disbanded.

Councilman Josh Pedrozo, who was also involved with the task force, said the City Council will need to continue to make the youth council a priority. If the young people on the board and around the city feel that their voices matter, he said, keeping the board up and running should not be difficult.

He praised the task force’s efforts. “It’s really encouraging,” he said. “The youth are really getting involved.”

According to the proposal, the youth council would be made up of seven members. Six of them would come from the districts used by the city’s Measure C Committee, which cuts Merced into three parts using Bear Creek and Highway 99 as boundaries. The seventh would be an at-large pick.

The monthly meetings and other duties are expected to take up about eight hours a month, and members would be required to find their own transportation. Members would also be charged with holding assemblies and conducting polls at schools in the city.

Flip Hassett, a member of the task force and the Parks and Recreation Commission, said the young people involved in the decision-making process came up with the standards for the youth council. The adults involved tried to let the youth direct the process.

He said the qualifications set by the youth were “wise,” because they were not exclusive – for only straight-A students – and they let applicants know the time commitment upfront.

One potential benefit, Hassett said, is a greater understanding of the depth and types of services for young people across Merced. With nonprofits, churches and other local groups offering services for young people, there are many moving parts.

“We need to get everybody together so that we are working in conjunction and in alignment,” he said. “Everybody’s going off and doing things, and we’re not using our resources effectively.”

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