The Merced Youth Council is a red herring the size of a tuna.
It was a bad idea from the beginning. Instead of letting it die a quiet and painless death like so many past youth councils in Merced, it has become a rallying point for some in the community. Now it is painted as a mechanism to highlight the importance of youth services and a growing frustration that the City Council has not allocated more money in the budget.
The Youth Council was initiated on a false premise and given money to hold the wolves at bay. It was financed to fail, and that is exactly what has happened.
Why? Sixteen-year-olds are not living lives that fit a long-standing commitment. It would be better to let teens form a task force and gather and provide information and offer good suggestions. Gather the input … then go.
Here’s another false premise: “Only youth know what they need.”
That is not really true, and many are ill-equipped to put together all of the pieces necessary to take their information and suggestions then make something happen. There needs to be extensive communication among the youth, entities that provide youth services and other stakeholders.
Let’s start all over. It won’t cost any money, and it will be the building blocks for meaningful discussions and action in the future.
▪ Disband the Merced Youth Council in favor of task force.
▪ Catalog all existing youth services in great detail, with information about services, hours and contacts.
▪ Develop a communication network and have meetings between all service providers and stakeholders.
▪ Educate service providers regarding “outcome objectives” then train them to evaluate then implement schemes in their organizations that will achieve them.
▪ Come back in one year for a thorough examination regarding what has been learned and done and to collect suggestions for changes and determine where to find the resources to fund additional needed services.
It is not in the long-term best interests of youth services or the community to lay all of this at the city’s doorstep. We need participation from all quarters – the faith-based community, private nonprofits, interested citizens, youth, and anyone else who wants to be involved.
What role should the city of Merced play? It should take responsibility for getting the process started then facilitating it.
I recently attended the Homeless Summit. I expected to find a bunch of people wandering around in a daze with no idea how to proceed.
Instead, I found an incredibly well-organized, professional seminar where the pathways were laid out and established communication links explained. This is exactly what youth services needs.
Bad news for City Manager Steve Carrigan. I have not spoken with him about this suggestion, but he is incredibly skillful and would be perfect to organize the same process for youth services that he did for the homeless.
We need to do more for our youth in this community. There are a bunch of smart, motivated people living here. Let’s get them together and make a better world.
Lee Pevsner worked for the city of Merced for over 26 years, the last two of which he was responsible for the Recreation Department, which included a Youth Council.