Marysville youth hope to make positive change in the community as part of the city’s new Youth Advocacy Committee.
The new group is composed of Marysville students who plan to begin projects this year to improve their community and schools.
The initiative began because of conversations with the city’s Diversity Advisory Committee.
“There was a lot of talk about how to build an inclusive community,” said Jason Smith, training and community outreach administrator with the city of Marysville. “One of the things they talked about that was needed was that the youth need more of a voice."
Recent racism incidents in the Marysville School District also spurred on the need for youth advocacy, he said.
Smith brought the idea of a committee to Marysville staff and the mayor, and got approval to go forward.
Students who plan to be a part of the committee said they were looking forward to having this group to work with.
“I was super excited because it finally meant that the city of Marysville is asking for the help they need … and it meant they wanted to listen to other people,” said Marysville student Emily Hec.
“I joined this program because I know there’s people who don’t have their voices heard,” said local student Denise Miranda-Ramirez.
Local youth began their first week with the program on Aug. 23 with a training course “meant to give them some foundational ideas,” said Smith.
That included meeting with Everett Gospel Mission staff to learn about poverty and homelessness, meeting with State Rep. April Berg to learn about the state legislature, and meeting with Tulalip Tribal members and leadership to understand tribal sovereignty and the issues they face.
“These meetings are meant to give them an idea about what they could change,” said Smith.
Hec said the trainings have been helpful to her.
“I’m already aware of so many things I didn’t know about. The racism in our community, the homelessness and the mental health problems,” she said. “My big thing is mental health and that is one thing I really want to help the community with."
Once the school year begins, Smith said the committee will be working through their own ideas and eventually selecting projects they could take on.
“I want to change the stereotypes,” said student Christine Helo.
She hopes that people of color can be seen as more than just the archetypes they are sometimes put into. “Change how people view others in a positive way,” she said.
Miranda-Ramirez also hopes to advocate and bring necessary conversations to locals.
“In the first day of training we had some really difficult conversations and I want to have those with the community, but I don’t want to be the person that just listens and says ‘yes, we will try to do this,’” she said. “I don’t want to just hear promises, I want to see the action actually taken."
Students often said they were pushed into the program by teachers, but have ended up enjoying it more than they initially thought they would.
“I was kind of ‘voluntold,’ but now I’m actually really into it,” said Helo.
Smith said the youth have responded well so far to having this outlet to make positive change.
“It felt good to feel like my younger voice and opinion could be heard. I thought we could start making a change toward something,” said Marysville student Hugo Barbosa Cedano Jr.
The students received a stipend as part of the training in an effort to acknowledge the work they are doing for their community.
“We want them to know that there time is important,” said Smith. “We were able to do that because the Communities of Color Coalition is paying for the stipends."