Change often starts with the young. Youth are the leaders of tomorrow, so they say.
Youth civic involvement increases success in school and leads to greater civic participation later in life. Unfortunately, many young people can name an American Idol winner but cannot name their state’s governor. The youth are disengaged from the political process due to the lack of knowledge necessary for an effective democratic society. Creating opportunities for young people to grow into thriving adults will increase the well-being of the next generation.
Young people must be leaders of today, not of the distant future. Our engagement is crucial in addressing local as well as global challenges. But how do we begin? Where do we start? Are we too young to be taken seriously? These are some of the questions that we faced as we entered high school.
Fortunately, we stumbled upon the Second District Youth Council spearheaded by San Bernardino County Supervisor Janice Rutherford. She is a politician, a wife, and most importantly a mother of two young boys. In an effort to educate and empower youth about governance, she created the Second District Youth Council. It is now in its second successful year of service.
Our first experience with the Second District Youth Council was at a Career Day at Vineyard Junior High. We learned from many professionals about what it takes to do their jobs, opening up our minds to different career options. Since then, we participated in job showing with professionals in medical, law, government, and behavioral health fields. We also attended a business summit at the State of the County where we learned about economic development in San Bernardino County.
Through the Youth Council, we engaged in our community by working on projects that we believe in, like the Social Media Campaign for mental and physical health. We organized events to give back to the community like the Christmas Toy Drive and Donate to Sanitate projects. In collaboration with the San Bernardino County Fire Office of Emergency Services, we created the “Pathway to Preparedness” pamphlet to prepare local residents for emergency or natural disaster.
The Youth Council brought so many people together – a diverse cast of members from different schools, backgrounds, ages, and leadership skills – to organize and improve the quality of life for our community. We learned what happens beyond the classroom: how to write a resume, how to network and how to conduct ourselves in a professional manner. We gained invaluable experience and life skills that will certainly help us grow into productive adults.
“Being Director and serving on the Council for 2 years has opened my eyes to many great things San Bernardino County offers from outstanding schools, great careers, beautiful cities, as well as the importance of County government. The Council gave me the opportunity to have a voice, make a change as well as taught me the importance of teamwork, soft skills, & communication. I leave this incredible program determined, inspired and motivated to make a difference in my future.” Isaiah Torres, Senior at Alta Loma High School
“The Youth Council has opened so many doors for me. I met many new people and can say with certainty that my fellow youth council members have become some of my biggest role models. I’m amazed by how driven they all are to get to where they want to be in life. They inspired me to work even harder to succeed. I have learned to be a better team player and have strengthened my leadership skills. I watched as my new friends on the youth council grew with me.” Romeo Zendejas, Sophomore at Upland High School
The Second District Youth Council is an effective platform, providing young people with information, tools, and support to work effectively together. It allows youth like us to take ownership of the process, mobilize others, and act as positive role models. We acquire new skills, while learning about responsibility and accountability.
All of this was made possible thanks to Supervisor Janice Rutherford. Despite her busy schedule, Supervisor Rutherford always finds the time to engage us on a personal level, encouraging us on the projects we care about. She sees us as future leaders of our community. Following the example of our Supervisor, we will definitely return after college to contribute to the place that has given us so much.
Applications for the 2018-19 Youth Council are due June 30.
By: Audrey Nguyen and Jeslyn Nguyen, Freshmen at Los Osos High School