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Communities form youth councils

Youth councils from Arlington, Darrington were created as part of the America's Best Communities initiative


Christopher Andersson

Olivia Walker, a member of the Arlington Youth Council, talks about what she thinks a leader needs in order to be successful during the first meeting of the new youth council on Sept. 22.

Youth in Arlington and Darrington will have more of a direct voice to their cities with the formation of youth councils for both towns.

The two youth councils had their first meeting on Sept. 22.

The councils are one of the initiatives being started because of the national America's Best Communities (ABC) competition. Arlington and Darrington are currently one of the eight semi-finalists in the contest.

"The ABC competition was the catalyst to get this beginning, but this is something that Arlington and Darrington and it's city councils and mayors have wanted to do for a long time," said Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert.

A large part of the contest is communities finding ways to become better.

"It's about small communities finding those resources within themselves, putting some projects together and then showing the world why we're America's best community," she said.

Tolbert hopes that the youth perspective is better understood with the new council.

"Every Monday night [Arlington City Council and city officials] decide policy and direction, and how to spend money in the city and we don't always get to see every aspect of it," she said.

City officials hope that a youth council will be able to provide their own opinions on how the city operates, as well as start their own initiatives and programs to improve the community.

"My hope is that the youth in Arlington become engaged in city government, learn about what it means to volunteer and encourage other students or kids to get involved," said Weston High School Principal Will Nelson, who is one of the adult advisors for the program.

Sarah Lopez, recreation and communications manager for the city and another of the adult advisors, said she hopes the youth council "can think about things that will improve the community and make it a place where they would want to live and come back to," she said.

Members of the Arlington youth council said they committed to the program because they want to represent their peers.

"I wanted to be a part of the council to give more voice to the youth in my community," said youth council member Zoe Tapper.

Christopher Andersson

Weston High School Principal Will Nelson, second from left, Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert, center, and Arlington Recreation and Communications Manager Sarah Lopez talk with participants at the first meeting of the new youth council on Sept. 22.

"I wanted to join the youth council to be able to involve my school and the people my age, and give them a voice in what happens and what we see in our community," said youth council member Olivia Walker.

Many are also using the opportunity to connect more with the world around them.

"I wanted to be a part of the youth council just to gain experience within the community and learn more about the community and other people," said youth council member Mikayla Beckley.

"I'm a little bit nervous, just because I haven't done anything this official before, but I'm really excited just to get started," she said.

Tolbert hopes the local youth council will provide a better way for young people in the community to be heard.

"When you do participate more in local government, we're going to be a better community for people your age," she said.

She hopes the youth council will be able to continue long after the ABC competition and the current members move on.

"This will be a template so there will always be a voice for youth in the community," she said.


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