The City of Montrose’s Youth City Council, established in 2011, is a group of young individuals from the community who engage in the area’s government and activities. The organization strives to teach the younger generation about the municipal process, work with the city council to provide a voice for young citizens and provide new opportunities for Montrose teens.
“The youth council … is really set with the goal of informing City Council of the youth’s perspective in the community: being able to share that perspective and represent their peers in the community,” said Mikayla Unruh, Youth Council Coordinator. “If there’s something they’ve been thinking about, youth council is a really great forum to bring those ideas forward and craft that message.”
The youth council sends representatives to each of the regular city council meetings, allowing the community’s youths to speak up about issues and ideas.
“It’s enjoyable for the members to see how seriously the city council takes their voices and perspectives,” Unruh said. “I also think it’s a really cool way to build a bridge between youth and older generations in our community, to build an open forum to exchange those ideas and address new issues.”
Roy Anderson, District III councilor and Montrose City Council representative for the Montrose Youth City Council, agrees that the organization helps people from different generations communicate about issues in the community.
“The youth council represents the ideas and thoughts of our young people,” Anderson said. “There’s often times when the older generation doesn’t always see things through the eyes of a young person, and sometimes there are things going on in the city that impact young people differently.”
The youth council has helped influence progress in Montrose government, such as creating an instructional video for the community after the construction of the traffic circle at Hillcrest and Sunnyside, and providing a student’s perspective while passing legislation regarding vaping.
Unruh said that while most education curricula have students learn about the processes of federal and state governments, it’s important for them to learn about what goes on within a city’s government, as well. The youth council provides educational pieces as well as direct involvement with Montrose government and city processes.
“(They learn) the way municipal government works, and how Montrose is special and all the pieces that tie together to make the city run,” Unruh said. “Learning what it means to be a voice for constituents and for other groups in the community, being able to bring the issues forward to peers in our group: I think it’s a huge lesson to learn at this young age that they’ll carry forward.”
Anderson said that the relationship between the city council and youth council is symbiotic: while the youth council gives a young person’s perspective, the city council provides a leadership and teaching role to help students grow in their community.
“The city council serves as a leadership example to the young people,” Anderson said. “We try to teach them about municipal government and how that goes, provide them with tours and opportunities to experience different parts of their city government.”
The youth council also participates in community service, such as street cleanup and volunteer work, as well as organizing events that directly serve the community’s youth. In previous years, the youth council has hosted job fairs and the Rock the Rec event, which provides community teens with a safe evening activity. Unruh hopes to have more Rock the Rec nights and other events in 2020.
“Going forward for this year, I’m excited to see us continue with those civic education pieces and build even stronger events. We really want to see that continue to take off,” Unruh said. She emphasized that as the members of the council and the community change, the organization shifts its activities.
By providing community youths with ways to express themselves and their ideas in a format that can yield tangible results, Unruh hopes the youth council has a lasting impact on its members.
“One of the key things is how important it is to have people who grow up in our area want to come back, creating a strong sense of community and a vision of the future. I think by engaging youth in this way, it’s a chance for them to start building that community that they would envision for themselves,” Unruh said. “Giving them that understanding that their voice truly does matter and that their perspective has an impact, it’s really important.”
The Montrose Youth City Council meets every Wednesday at 3 p.m. in the Centennial Conference room. Community organizations and youths interested in the group are encouraged to attend the open meetings.
McKenzie Moore is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press and Delta County Independent.