The Hood River City Council is getting younger by the day.
At least it appeared that way on Monday when three high school students were sworn in as the new Youth Advisory Council.
Henry Burton, a junior, and seniors Jodie Gates and Candice Hoag took their places alongside the elected body as the first local YAC members.
“I really think this is going to be a positive experience and I’m glad it’s happening,” said Mayor Paul Cummings.
At the Sept. 23 meeting, Cummings directed the three new “councilors” to participate in discussions and be prepared to explain the reasoning behind their unofficial votes.
“We want to know what you are thinking and where you are coming from now that you are a part of the council,” said Cummings.
The idea to give area youth a first hand look at government operations was pitched to the lead city officials earlier this year by Linda Rouches, council president. She first heard about the growing concept while attending a League of Oregon Cities conference last year. When Rouches learned that the purpose of a YAC was to coordinate, advise and activate peers and elders in issues affecting youth, she immediately became enthusiastic about the formation of a Hood River group.
“I was hoping for a connection with youth and how they are feeling about local government,” said Rouches.
After receiving a strong endorsement from her peers, Rouches then approached Hood River Valley High School Teacher Bob Kadell, who oversees leadership and student government activities, with the idea.
“The students showed interest and I thought this would be a good opportunity for them,” Kadell said.
In April the trio of students were formally interviewed by the council and asked to explain why they wanted to serve. All three applicants said they wanted to effect positive change in their hometown.
“I think it is rare that youth are given the chance to help make decisions that could change the future of the community, and I would love to help make Hood River a place where the youth of today will want to live, 10 or 20 years from now,” wrote Gates in her application.
“Since we will be the people benefiting or suffering from the decisions made today, I feel it is crucial that we take part in planning and carrying out these decisions,” stated Hoag.
“I would like to see youth more involved in society and more concerned about important social issues,” Burton wrote.
Rouches plans to attend a YAC workshop in the near future to keep current on new ideas for the three new appointed council members.
“As long as we’ve got these young folks involved I want to make it worth their time and effort. I want to make them feel like they are getting a rich experience,” she said.
When Burton spoke up several times to gain insight into council actions on Monday, Rouches was pleased to see that strong level of interest displayed so early in his one-year term of office.
“Hopefully, being in on the ground floor will give them a better understanding of how government operates,” she said.
Burton and Hoag agreed following their first meeting that they are being challenged with a large learning curve.
“It was kind of exciting but it was a little confusing and will get more interesting when we know what’s going on,” Burton said.
“It was interesting but a lot of it was over my head and as we keep going on I’ll learn a lot about government and how cities run,” Hoag said.