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When Hillsboro youth have opportunities to help others and achieve excellence in their own lives, it makes our community stronger. From the recent creation of the city’s first career exploration event, Youth Invasion, to the Hillsboro Police Department Cadet Program, Hillsboro has provided meaningful youth engagement programs.

The city of Hillsboro has prioritized youth initiatives such as the Youth Advisory Council (YAC), which provides Hillsboro’s high school students with leadership opportunities. Our mayor and city council members went one step further in partnering to provide college scholarship opportunities to students who will attend Portland Community College (PCC) through the Future Connect program. But we aim to do more.

While our young people under the age of 18 cannot vote, they can and do have a say in what happens in our community through the Hillsboro 2035 Vision process. A youth representative participated in the interview panel for our recently-hired police chief, and several YAC members traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend this year’s National League of Cities Conference.

This month, the city of Hillsboro will launch a new internship program that will introduce more students to public service. It will open up their future career options and create another direct connection between city employees and the young people we serve.

Five students from YAC and five students from PCC Future Connect will serve as interns, assisting city departments including Planning, Fire, Parks & Recreation, Information Services, Human Resources and the city manager’s office. In future years, the program will expand beyond YAC and PCC Future Connect students. Previous city of Hillsboro interns have come from local colleges and universities.

Nationally as well as here in Oregon, the youth unemployment rate is more than twice as high as the general unemployment rate. Last year, we asked the Hillsboro Hops baseball team to help our youth gain work experience, and the team came through for our kids. Local youth filled 71 of the 172 newly created jobs connected to baseball at the Hillsboro Ballpark. In addition, the city hires dozens of youths each year for entry-level lifeguard and cashier positions.

Having a strong connection between elected leaders, city employees and the youngest generation of residents serves several purposes. This internship program will give our young people an earlier opportunity to explore career choices, learn hands-on and help their hometown. It also will fill a city need for bright young interns who creatively solve challenges and make Hillsboro an even better place to live.

Michael Brown is Hillsboro’s city manager.

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