Silvius seeking volunteers for youth advisory council
Red Oak Mayor Shawnna Silvius is seeking applicants for a youth advisory council to provide feedback to the city.
Silvius said the group will be made up of 9-12th grade students from the Red Oak Community School District, as well as home schooled youth, who apply and are selected to join the youth council.
“Once selected, they will share what is important to them in the community, share their ideas, and identify a potential core project that they will work on. It’s going to work very well this year, as two instructors at the Red Oak District are having students break into groups to come up with betterment projects, and those ideas were pitched to myself and several council members. From those, I think they’ll get other ideas from their colleagues, and one may be something they bring forward for the youth council to do in partnership or with approval from the students who the idea may be borrowed from,” commented Silvius.
Silvius said the ultimate goal is to get their voice out into the community to engage and discuss what is important to them and to build civic minded future leaders.
“You can imagine the topics I’m hearing. They want entertainment, they want to see clean-up projects, and they want to mentor other, younger youth in the elementary,” said Silvius.
After the council members are selected, Silvius said the council will meet once or twice a month, depending on the core project selected.
“I’ll expose them to philanthropy, and teach them how to request funds to support a project. They’ll also get the opportunity to meet key leaders in the community as well as members of the city council, and pitch their own core project idea to us as well, then put the project together. I see it being a legacy project, something that will have their name on it that they will be able to come back and see years from now and know they were a part of,” explained Silvius.
With that learning process, Silvius said she believes it will not only allow the members to have a voice, but it will also expand their leadership skills, help them gain confidence in themselves and their ideas for the community, and activate the role they can play in helping influence leaders in the community and projects.
Silvius is well-familiar with youth advisory committees, having coordinated similar programs through community foundation boards and youth leadership programs in other communities.
“Now that I’m mayor, I feel it’s very important to share their voice. We’re creating a community for them to want to come back to once they have finished college, or gotten married, and maybe some won’t choose to leave at all. We want this to be a community where they want to stay or return to for the long-term to grow their career or businesses and to raise their families. I’ve seen models of these mayor youth programs in other communities, and hopefully ours will expand to allow youth members to seek to sit on city council as a youth member to share their input to the full council and community directly. If the program can get to that point, they would not have a vote since they are not elected, but they would be able to share their peer voices and opinions.
Silvius said she’s looking for any student in grades 9-12 who is interested in bettering the community.
“The application will be available at the school, at Red Oak City Hall, and on my Facebook page, facebook.com/MayorSilvius. I have passed out applications already during the school’s open house, and if I can be present for conferences, I may share them during that time as well. The applications will be due by Oct. 21. The first session is slated to begin Nov. 9 once school approval for this date is confirmed. The meetings will be held at the school following early dismissal on Wednesdays, and will run roughly an hour to an hour and a half,” advised Silvius.
The youth advisory council will be limited to young adults in the Red Oak area for now, though Silvius said she would be happy to share the model with other communities that are interested.
Silvius said her goal is to have 15 students on the council though she can potentially have up to 25 participants depending on the number of applications she receives.
“This might be a smaller group, and they will forever be known as the founding group, so that will be fun and special. Once they graduate, they will no longer be able to participate unless they are interested in serving as an advisor, but freshmen through juniors will be encouraged to re-apply for the next year. If someone has participated one year, they can certainly come back and mentor the others, so if they become involved as a freshmen and are active, they are welcome to come back and expand their experience with others for the next few years if they wish to continue,” Silvius stated.
Silvius anticipates the program to run from the early November through June. Silvius is hopeful the council can complete their project by then, although she’s open to continuing the program into the summer until the project is completed.
Silvius also wanted to express her appreciation to the Red Oak Community School district for allowing her to use space at the school for the meetings, and to speak with potential members.
“This is not a school-sponsored program. It is one I am hosting that will take place at the school, and I’m happy they’re allowing me to do that,” Silvius said.
Silvius said Council Member Tim Fridolph is also looking to be actively involved as an advisor, and other council members may also be involved at meetings. Silvius said other members of the community have come forward and shared their interest to be mentor/advisors to the council as well. Silvius feels the council will be a great way for adults and young adults to connect and listen to what is important to area youth.
“I feel many communities make decisions they think are in the best interest to everybody, but aren’t focusing enough on what youth really want. I feel we need to think outside of the box, and let these young adults help lead us in that out-of-the-box thinking. My other hope is that their experience sparks their interest and participation in future civic leadership.”