Youth Commission Gives Voice to Fresno's Young Residents

Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria



A year ago the Fresno City Council voted to create the first ever Fresno Youth Commission and provided funding through its annual city budget, and the first commissioners were sworn in April 28. Through these actions, and our partnership with Fresno Unified, the council demonstrated its commitment to engage youth at the local government level and develop future leaders. I am proud to have been the lead sponsor of the legislation that created the commission. However, credit for the idea is owed to all the young people of Fresno who worked for two years to find ways to become engaged in the local policy making process.

The commission addresses the important goal of integrating the voice of young people into local policymaking with the goal of creating positive change to shape the city's future. Institutionalizing youth voice in the policymaking process both engages young people and helps policymakers make wiser investments and policy decisions responsive to youth needs. There is great value in having a mechanism for young people to have a voice in city affairs and issues of special concern to youth, including crime prevention, jobs for youth, health and wellness, accessible public transportation, recreational facilities and open green space. The commission is a vehicle by which the youth of the city can be heard and provide input to our city council and mayor.

The Fresno Youth Commission is composed of young people from throughout the city, ages 15-22 years old. Through a competitive selection process, 16 youth commissioners were appointed and sworn-in earlier this spring for a two-year term, each council member appointing two young people from their district (one voting and one non-voting) and the mayor appointing two at-large. The commissioners are a reflection of the diversity our city. See www.fresnounified.org for a list of commissioners.

I am proud that our city is willing to invest in our young people. Successful youth engagement strategies require that youth have genuine and meaningful opportunities to work with each other and with policymakers to impact issues of importance. Effective initiatives respect the value of young people in public problem-solving and provide young people and adults with information, tools and support to work effectively together as partners, allowing opportunities for youth to take ownership of parts of the process, mobilize others and become powerful role models and leaders in their own community. I am confident that out of the Fresno Youth Commission will come future council members and mayors who will steer the future of Fresno.

Congratulations to all the 2016-2017 Youth Commissioners on your recent appointment!
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