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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

County Council Youth Town Hall Summary

Thank you to all the students who showed up to the County Council Town Hall tonight (and for packing the room!). Your very presence really showed them that youth really do have a say when it comes to the future!

For those of you who couldn't make it due to transportation, weather issues, etc. I have provided a summary of some of the testimony provided by students during the Town Hall. Don't worry the room was absolutely packed with over a hundred students - so much so that parents had to be sent out and many students couldn't even find a seat in the room!

First, there was a very diverse group of students that was able to make it to the town hall. Groups like Identity, the Ghandi Brigade, Mixed Unity, Sports Academies, the Montgomery County Youth Advisory Council, ARRF, Montgomery County Junior Councils, Montgomery County Region, individual student governments, and several other programs sent student representation from around the county. Some students traveled as far as Poolesville, Damascus, and even Silver Spring while others walked down the street from schools like Richard Montgomery and Wootton. Students from 3rd grade all the way through 12th grade were able to weigh in on some of the most important issues to them.

Of course with this wide range of stakeholders, students brought a range of issues to the table. The most prevalent issues students spoke of were those dealing with magnet busing for students, after school and community programs, the need for community intervention and prevention programs, community and school safety, the education budget in general, jobs for youth, development, mental health, and healthcare for youth. Students asked for support programs for MS/HS engagement and addressed the lack of positive role models in some parts of the county. Others came to the Council with questions about the environment and about the possibility of using Polystyrene Trays. Other students talked about the programs that were working in their communities like their Sports Academies and services provided by Regional Services Centers, while others addressed aspects of the County Government that really did not aid students like many EFOs in schools (the prevalence of bullying) and problems with Police and schools. It was very clear from the number of students who wanted to comment and ask questions that students were very informed about their communities and truly wanted to have a voice in the system.

The Council briefly engaged students about the role of student safety and health in their schools. Councilmembers asked students about aspects of safety and security they were most concerned about and how the County Council could address them through prevention and intervention programs. Several Councilmembers brought up the idea of a Teen Center where students could hang out. Some asked students about how safe they felt in schools, while others addressed problems ranging from crime and teen pregnancy.

By the end of the meeting students were hungry for more. As a result, many students engaged with councilmembers on an individual level. One student even proposed creating a "Student Member on the County Council"! The energy in the room was very high and many students (and councilmembers) were disappointed that the time seemed so short.

I am sure that councilmembers will continue to engage students at a very high level and will take the views of Montgomery County's youth very seriously. Overall, I believe the night went well for many of the students in attendance especially since it was the very first Town Hall held specifically for youth by the County Council, and I am sure that this will not be the last Town Hall meeting held with youth by the County Council.

Videos and photos will be posted soon!

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