116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
NORTH LIBERTY — When Micah Ariel James was hired as North Liberty’s first outreach and equity coordinator last year, one of the programs that sparked her interest was the city’s youth council.
“It's one of the things that I was most excited about when I was interviewing for this position and looking forward to taking that this on,” James said.
James, who started her job last November, began connecting with youth and community organizations to get a sense of young people’s needs and interests. She also researched youth councils in other cities.
She wants the youth council to not be “a symbolic program” but one with “actual opportunity for meaningful contribution from these youth.”
What’s happened since?
The first meeting of the North Liberty Youth Council will be next month.
The program will be a way for high school students to connect with elected officials, develop leadership skills, advocate for other young people and participate in the community by leading service projects.
“This new Youth Council will help give our youth a voice in local decisions, support our community through service and help build future leaders,” North Liberty Mayor Chris Hoffman said in a statement.
High school students began applying for the youth council positions in mid-August. At least 12 students will be selected for the program’s inaugural year.
An orientation for selected students was held Thursday, and the students will be sworn in during the North Liberty City Council meeting Oct. 11.
The first group of selected students also will help shape and develop the youth council program, James said.
Among the questions students were asked on the application were why they’re interested in joining the youth council and what they think are some of the biggest issues facing youth in North Liberty.
James said the goal was to attract individuals who have different perspectives and experiences to bring to discussions.
“There are youth who have served on student council at their school or been a part of clubs and done fundraisers … and then there are others who haven't quite gotten there yet but are demonstrating an interest in doing that,” James said.
James said young people are interested in seeing underserved populations gain better service in the community. Other priorities they mentioned in their applications including more things to do in North Liberty and more opportunities for youth to have their voices heard.
Students also want to increase inclusion, improve access to mental health support and take action to address climate change, James said.
“I'm glad that they know that this is an opportunity for them to have their voices heard and that they believe in this possibility because I think that's the starting place for being able to make change and create some real impact, which they absolutely will,” James said.
The plan for now is for the Youth Council to meet the third Thursday of each month, James said.
Students will get to know each other and “lay the foundation for what this program could be,” James said. Students will determine the council’s mission, set standards for each other and identify goals for the year.
The Youth Council terms will run through August 2023, James said, with another application period next summer. Current members will be able to apply for reappointment.
“I'm very excited by the enthusiasm that I see and the hopefulness that the youth are representing about their ability to contribute,” James said.
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