From Deirdre Jonese Austin, senior at Independence High School and president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Youth Council, in response to “CMS board should establish a student advisory board” (March 25), a letter written in response to “Could CMS have a student serve on the school board?” (March 16):
Are young people important stakeholders in our community who need a seat at the table? Yes! 25 percent of our county's population is under the age of 18.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Youth Council serves as the student advisory board for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the City of Charlotte, and Mecklenburg County.
A program of Charlotte nonprofit GenerationNation, in partnership with the city, county, and school district, the youth council was launched in 2013 after a successful pilot project that took place in prior years.
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Our members are diverse and representative. We attend more than 30 CMS and non-CMS schools and live in neighborhoods across the community.
We are leaders who care about our schools, our city, our towns, and our county. We take an active role in learning how our governments and community work and how citizens and leaders collaborate to solve problems.
Youth council members meet regularly to learn about and discuss key issues and understand different perspectives. In addition, we conduct surveys, follow news, perform community service, attend government meetings, and participate in civic events.
Recently, members of the youth council participated in the N.C. Youth Legislative Assembly in Raleigh. It was a great way to experience the legislative process, learn about different viewpoints and issues, and get to know student leaders from communities across the state.
Importantly, we are a valuable resource. Charlotte-Mecklenburg leaders know they can ask for, and use, our feedback to strengthen policies and decisions impacting children and youth.
Last month, youth council members met with CMS leaders to weigh in on budget priorities. That feedback helps to inform the superintendent and Board of Education as they create and approve next year’s budget.
Recently, we hosted a youth summit in which members of the school board, Charlotte City Council, Mecklenburg Board of Commissioners and high school students discussed how we can all work together to make our schools and community strong now and for the future.
As part of that dialogue, students and officials brainstormed ways to expand opportunities for student voice. Could that include elected student roles? Should we maximize ways the student advisory council is used? We look forward to continuing to explore ideas with community leaders.
We invite all interested high school students to join the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Youth Council. To learn more, visit http://generationnation.org/index.php/youthvoice.