While students are generally too young to vote, the Boston Mayor’s Youth Council is giving them a new way to have their voices heard in the city. To bridge the divide between youth and the city administration, the council empowers young adults to actively engage in their communities, providing the ample resources required to do so while also connecting them with a network of peers and city officials. Recently, I had the privilege of attending one of these community council meetings, an experience that broadened my understanding of local governance but also left me inspired and optimistic about the bright future ahead of us.
Through open-ended discussions that address issues ranging from the inconsistency and hazards of the city’s public transportation system to the unavailability of safe spaces for young people in certain neighborhoods, a space is provided for youth to both address the issues that they have noticed and to share their unique ideas and creative solutions to these everyday problems.
The Mayor’s Youth Council meeting showcased various community-oriented initiatives, where students were assigned to committees, or long-term groups that were designated to address topics ranging from environmental sustainability to public health to the lack of diverse courses in education. Using residential feedback to identify the problems that the community faced the most, youth decided on which issues they would base their projects on, to gradually implement local change in collaboration with city officials.
The Boch Center, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, GrubStreet, Spoke Art, and StartStrong were also at the meeting to share about a variety of existing resources that youth could access to learn more about getting involved in the arts, literature, or community developments. Mixing allowed for new ideas to flourish and for organizations to better understand from a youth perspective what is truly needed in the community.
While change comes at a slow rate, these youth projects are bound to implement healthy changes in the city to last generations. The Mayor’s Youth Council serves as one of many beacons of hope in Boston, that demonstrate the transformative power that can be unleashed when the potential of youth contribution is acknowledged and the voices of youth are heard and valued in the shaping of our collective future.