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YAC on Track: Hillsboro Youth Advisory Council students travel to nation's capital

COURTESY PHOTO: KRISTI WILSON - Hillsboro's Youth Advisory Council showed off its patriotic spirit at the League of Oregon Cities conference in Washington, D.C., from March 5 to March 9.Six Hillsboro School District students joined more than 1,500 local government leaders from across the country earlier this month to attend the National League of Cities conference in Washington, D.C.

Along with student delegates from Tigard, Beaverton, Happy Valley and Forest Grove, selected representatives of Hillsboro’s Youth Advisory Council went with their respective mayors and other administrative officials to see how federal policies affect their communities and to participate in various governmental processes.

“I thought it was cool to talk to people about how they got into politics and how it’s affected them and their lives,” said Conner Stansell, 17, of Glencoe High School. “It was also cool to hear about new ideas other cities are trying out to improve their communities.”

PHOTO COURTESY: KRISTI WILSON - The Youth Advisory Councils student delegation also got to meet Oregon senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden (pictured) while in the nation's capital.Stansell was particularly intrigued by policies in Boston and San Francisco that lower the voting age in those municipalities to 16.

Mayor Jerry Willey, councilor Kyle Allen and City Manager Michael Brown served as administrative chaperones along with Youth Development Coordinators Kristi Wilson and Katie Jensen.

“As a YAC chaperone, it is truly an amazing experience to watch Hillsboro youth engage with other youth from around the nation to discuss issues and work together to find resolutions,” Wilson said. “Each of our youth delegates came back to Oregon inspired to work with youth and city leaders to make a difference in our community.”

“[The students] represented the city of Hillsboro excellently,” Willey said.

Student leaders were equally enthusiastic.

“I enjoyed becoming familiar with the political opinions of youth across the country who are passionate about the same topics that I am,” said Emily Smith, 17, of Glencoe. “It was really interesting to discuss prevalent issues and explore possible solutions with both our nation’s current and future leaders.”

Along with being given opportunities to discuss real political issues that affect their cities with politicians and other students from across the country, the student delegation also got to visit the Arlington National Cemetery, the Smithsonian Museum and the White House, among other historical sites.

“We didn’t go there to sightsee, but when you’re in Washington, D.C., it’s important to explore our nation’s history,” Wilson said.

Though Smith had been to D.C. twice before, she added that she was thankful to see new things this time around.

“I liked meeting people from different councils and getting ideas from them on what we can do,” said Ashwin Datta, 17, of Glencoe. “I can’t wait to start formulating the strategies we learned into our [Youth Advisory Council].”

PHOTO COURTESY: KRISTI WILSON - From left, Hillsboro City Manager Michael Brown, City Councilor Kyle Allen, Hilhi student Paulina Castro, Glencoe student Conner Stansell, Glencoe student Ashwin Datta, Glencoe student Emily Smith, Liberty student Miguel Garcia, Glencoe student Mica Annis and Mayor Jerry Willey stop for a photo-op during the conference. The students now intend to take what they’ve learned and incorporate their enthusiasm for local politics into their daily lives at their respective high schools — and they hope to see a rise in youth civic involvement as a result.

Students interested in joining the city’s Youth Advisory Council can submit their applications until April 15. Information on how to do so can be found at Hillsboro-oregon.gov.