FRAMINGHAM – The first year of the Framingham Youth Councils ends today, June 30.
The 13-member Youth Council was created by the Framingham City Council in 2019, when then Framingham High senior Isabella Petroni wrote an ordinance asking that the legislative branch of the City change the Charter to create an 11-member Youth Council.
The Youth Council is comprised of 13 individuals – one from each of Framingham’s nine districts nominated by the district city councilors, two nominated by the City Councilors at large; and two appointed by the Mayor).
Members must be between the ages of 13-22, and must reside in Framingham
The Mayoral appointees and the Council at-large appointees serve a 2-year term. The nine district Youth Councilors served a one-year term.
Petroni, who is now a sophomore at the University of New England. was elected chair of the first Youth Council in July 2019. Framingham High student Chloe Mills was elected vice chair. Ironically, the two are at-large members, who were appointed by Councilors Cheryl Tully Stoll and George P King Jr., and both will serve the Youth Council until June 30, 2021.
Applications are now being accepted for the 9 district Youth Council positions.
The deadline to apply is Thursday, July 9 at 5 p.m. To apply click here. The applications are available in English, Spanish, & Portuguese.
The Youth Council meets at least once a month, typically on Sunday afternoons.
According to the Youth Council ordinance, the Council’s roles and responsibilities are as follows:
- Evaluating and reviewing issues facing youth in the City
- Representing youth in the City of Framingham, and advising elected officials and other policy makers regarding matters of interest or concern to young people
- Providing information to and advocating before public entities including the mayor, municipal government, state government, federal government, police, school districts, and high education institutions, in support of young people in the City of Framingham
- Providing a structure for all young people in Framingham to learn the value of civic participation and thereby encouraging lifelong participatory residents
- Offering policy recommendations on issues affecting and of interest to young people
- Engaging with young people in Framingham to informing them of opportunities and listening to their suggestions regarding how the community can better serve its residents
“Despite the hiccups that have occurred due to COVID-19, I am proud to have served on the inaugural Youth Council and served with many talented people from across the city,” said Petroni. “My hope in creating this Youth Council was to allow youth as interested in government and activism as I am to have a voice in their city’s government and learn skills that could be useful later in life. My other hope was that the Youth Council would truly represent the racial, ethnic, and geographic diversity that Framingham is proud of.”
The first 13-member Youth Council was comprised of 10 women. The Youth Council may also be the most diverse committee, commission, or board in the City of Framingham, with eight minorities out of its 13 members. Geographically, five of the 13 members live south of Route 9, including its chair.
As a completely new entity, the first year of the Youth Council was focused on setting up rules, procedures, subcommittee, and getting to know the other aspects of City government.
“It was important that the Youth Council had the chance to meet with its leaders and have the ability to engage and ask questions of them,” said Petroni, who lives in District 8.
Superintendent of the Framingham Public Schools Bob Tremblay, School Committee members Scott Wadland, Geoffrey Epstein & Priscila Sousa met with the Council its first year, as did the public school district’s health director to discuss mental health issues.
Superintendent of the Keefe Regional Technical School District Jon Evans and the City’s Citizen Participation Officer also met with the Youth Council.
Mayor Yvonne Spicer and City Councilors Cheryl Tully Stoll and Adam Steiner met with the Council too.
“The Youth Council was planning the first-ever Youth Summit for the spring of 2020, before the pandemic halted our plans,” said Petroni.
The summit’s goal was to bring youths from throughout the City together to identify the top key issues facing middle, high school, and college youths. The issues identified during that Summitt would have become the focus of the 2020-21 Youth Council year.
“We are still planning on having the Youth Summit, but it would be better to wait until early 2021 so that we aren’t contributing to the spread of the pandemic,” said Petroni.
“I am proud to have worked with some of the most talented youth in this city who have had the opportunity to have their own voice. I couldn’t have asked for a more dedicated and passionate group of individuals to kick this off. I know that this year hasn’t gone according to plan. But, I hope that the experience has still been made for them at such a young age,” said Petroni, age 18.
The Youth Council also created four subcommittees during its inaugural year, each with their own chairs. The goal was to provide more leadership opportunities for all members. Each subcommittee also had a vice chair.
The subcommittes were:
- Diversity & inclusion chaired by Neha Senthil
- Academic Achievement chaired by Ashwina Bangari
- Outreach & Youth Engagement chaired by Mira Donaldson
- Health issues chaired by Mills
“I hope that even if some are not reappointed to the next Youth Council that they go on to accomplish bigger and brighter things in their lives. I also hope that they stay and get more involved whether here in Framingham or MetroWest or Massachusetts or beyond because there is nothing better than having a chance to serve the people and make a difference in any community,” said Petroni
Petroni said the first year of the Youth Council, like the first year of City Council, had a lot of procedures and rules to set up, but she is looking forward to diving deep into issues during the second year of the Council.
Mental health was the focus of Petroni’s speech to become chair and she would still like the Youth Council to have a role in the City’s and the school department’s mental health issues and advocacy.
Petroni hopes the second-year Youth Council continues its focus on academics and equity issues.
“I would love for the Youth Council to help write policy for the School Committee to vote on, draft ordinances for the City Council to ratify, and provide a seat at the table with the Mayor on key issues,” concluded Petroni.
Editor’s Note: In full transparency, Petroni is my daughter.