Amherst Youth Community Engagement Group for Teens

Posted: 08/19/2022 20:00:53

Modified: 08/19/2022 19:57:27

AMHERST — High school students sit on several city committees, such as the Public Shade Tree Committee and the Cultural Council, and often readily share their thoughts on Amherst issues by commenting at public meetings.

Yet even with her peers’ interest in city politics, recent Amherst Regional High School graduate Ruby Cain has noticed that students in their early teens, including middle schoolers, are often less engaged and unaware of decisions made locally and how these might affect them. .

Cain hopes that can change, completing the outline of a plan that community engagement officers, along with city manager Paul Bockelman, can use to bring young students into the process of discussing local affairs.

“My vision for the community engagement group is an organization run entirely by students for college kids, by young high school kids, with the goal of creating impactful change for our city and proving that a youth perspective matters in politics” , said Cain. “I want this group to foster community, create changemakers and promote political awareness.”

Cain has been part of the city’s ambassador program, which began during COVID-19 and has continued, with people working for the city connecting to the public at events, apartment complexes, offices of voting and parks and playgrounds. Cain spent time in an internship at City Hall this summer as an ambassador.

It was there that Brianna Sunryd, the city’s director of communications and civic innovation, commissioned Cain to research and develop an initial proposal on a youth civic engagement program focused on creating understanding and leadership. action at the local level.

The basics of the proposal Cain drafted include having high school students serve as mentors to middle school students, using a civics class to gauge the interest of students who might join the program, and rolling out ‘ Instagram to engage with these students on civic and political issues.

Cain noted that national and global issues, such as climate, public health and human rights, resonate most with young students, and these types of topics are a perfect way to connect them to action. at local level.

Sunryd said the next step would be to discuss with the public school district how to develop a curriculum.

“The city is very interested in deliberate youth engagement,” Sunryd said. “We see this only succeeding when informed by young people and co-developed.”

This fall, Cain is heading to North Carolina State University to pursue studies in textile fashion management, with a focus on product development. She wants to create durable textiles that are both fashionable and ergonomic.

“My hope for my own future is to learn new perspectives and get to know different communities to better understand how other people interact with the world and with each other,” Cain said.

As for the city’s efforts to engage young people, she believes she left a blueprint for that to happen.

“My hope for the future of this group is for it to be inclusive and enjoyable,” Cain said.

Scott Merzbach can be contacted at [email protected]