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Young City, USA


by: CONTRIBUTED PICTURE: CITY OF HILLSBORO. - Youth Advisory Council members record a public service announcement with Tualatin Valley Community TV.The late afternoon meeting in the second floor conference room of the Hillsboro Civic Center was more casual than most.

Almost all of the 19 participants wore jeans and sneakers. The door was propped open with a garbage can for stragglers. And the group passed around a large box of cheese-flavored Goldfish crackers before the meeting began.

But when the work started, everyone got down to business. They approved the minutes from the last meeting, discussed potential bylaw revisions and broke into work groups to focus on future projects — including organizing an upcoming Youth Art Exhibit, rounding up volunteers for Global Youth Services Day, helping middle school students prepare for high school, and serving meals at Home Plate, a local nonprofit that helps homeless youth.

Welcome to one of the twice-monthly meetings of the Hillsboro Youth Advisory Council, a volunteer group of high school students dedicated to community service and communicating the concerns of their peers to city leaders.

Co-President Dorian Kershaw, a Liberty High School senior, joined because she wanted to work on community projects with more people her own age.

“I knew students at my school, but I wanted to meet more high school students from the rest of the city,” she says.

According to Kershaw, serving on YAC — as the group is commonly called — has exceeded her expectations. She is one of six members chosen to attend the 2013 National League of Cities Conference in Washington, D.C., from March 8 to 13. Planned events include meetings with other high school students from around the country, a tour of 1st District Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici’s office, and a question-and-answer session with Oregon U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.

“I really want to learn more about how local governments work with the federal government,” says Kershaw.

Active membersby: CONTRIBUTED PICTURE: CITY OF HILLSBORO. - Mayor Jerry Willey poses with members of the Hillsboro Youth Advisory Council. Left to right back row: Mayor Jerry Wiley, Eddie Lopez, Conner Stansell, Dorian Kershaw, Tori Butcher, Jacob Pavlik, Rachel Gibbs, Khiem Lam, Lukas Heaton. Left to right front row: Cristina Lopez Alonso, Madison Heldt, Lorena Colcer, Rachel Simon, Anisha Datta, Nidhi Pai, Natalie Beckstrand, Karissa Pavlik, Alicia De Jesus Hernandez, Nui Gonzales. Not pictured: Jose Alcala, Briana Vega, Emily Van Vleet, Nischal Mali, Sophie VanDyke, Jonathan Napier, Madison Davis.

YAC members attracted a lot of attention during Mayor Jerry Willey’s State of the City speech last month. Dressed in matching T-shirts, they passed out programs and helped seat the audience. Two members — Dorian and Jacob Pavlick — appeared in videos shown throughout the speech.

Although YAC was first formed in 2006, it’s likely that many who attended the speech didn’t know it existed until that night. There were only eight members last year, when the program was supported by the city’s administration office. Wanting to increase its size and activities, Willey assigned YAC to Hillsboro Parks and Recreation, where volunteer services coordinator Kristi Wilson was put in charge.

Although she was given the assignment only a few weeks before the start of the school year, Wilson used her connections to encourage from all students in grades 9 to 12. The applications, which asked what issues facing youth should be addressed, poured in. Twenty-five members were chosen from Century, Glencoe, Hillsboro and Liberty high schools. Others went the waiting list.

Only the Middle Education Center had trouble meeting the short deadline.

According to Wilson, most of the YAC members are also active in extracurricular and volunteer affairs, which is why some occasionally miss meetings. A good example is Pavlick, who spent part of the recent meeting recruiting volunteers for the Hillsboro Schools Foundation’s upcoming phone-a-thon fundraiser.

“I’ve done it before and it’s a lot of fun. They serve food,” Pavlick said.

Rewarding venture

Once they join YAC, the members got a whole lot busier, however.

First, they agree to maintain a grade point average of 3.0 or higher, miss no fewer than three of the twice-monthly meetings without a valid excuse, and complete 25 hour of community service. Then they adopted three themes to guide their work — education, the environment and equality.

Next, they produced two pubic service announcements through Tualatin Valley Community TV, one on cyber bullying and one on water conservation. In them, YAC members give advice on how to fight cyber bullying and stop wasting water. They are running on the local TVCTV channel and are available on YouTube.

After that, members focused on four major projects for the remainder of the school year. Those projects are: A Youth Art Exhibit that will open at the Glenn & Viola Walters Cultural Arts Center on April 2; organizing a restoration project at Hamby Park for Global Youth Services Day on April 27; writing and making presentations to middle school students to ease their transitions to high school; and serving meals at Home Plate on March.

In addition to all that, many of the members have attended meetings of the City Council and other civic organizations, including the Hillsboro Arts and Culture. In addition to the State of the City speech, some will also participate in Vision 2020 Town Hall on June 11.

It’s also likely that many of them will continue volunteering after the school year ends, Wilson says. Some have already said they’d staff booths at Celebrate Hillsboro, the annual community festival on July 20 at the Civic Center.

The service is not without its rewards. In addition to the six members chosen to attend the upcoming League of Cities conference, multiple scholarship of up to $1,000 will be awarded to seniors who display outstanding leadership, dedication and engagement.

All of this is financed with $72,500 in parks funds, including Wilson’s time, the trip to Washington, D.C., the scholarships, and the Goldfish crackers.