FRAMINGHAM – The City Council will appoint 9 new district youth councilors on Tuesday night, August 4.
Applications for the appointments were due in July. All will be appointed to a 1-year term to end on June 30, 2021.
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. She wanted the Youth of the City to have a voice in City government just like the Council on Aging.
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
Petroni was voted the chair and at-large member, and Framingham High student, Chloe Mills was voted the vice chair. Both are serving a 2-year term that ends on June 30, 2021, along with the Mayor’s two appointees.
Four of the youth councilors are re-appointments for a second 1-year term.
Five of the district youth councilors are new appointments.
The appointments to be voted on Tuesday include:
- District 1 Jordan Summerfield (re-appointment)
- District 2 Annabel Francis
- District 3 Haley Strange
- District 4 Ashwina Bangari (re-appointment)
- District 5 Hamza Rifki (re-appointment)
- District 6 Alison Jones (re-appointment)
- District 7 Joy Kunda
- District 8 Esther Celoy
- District 9 Gaina Jean Pierre
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
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.
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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.
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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, said Petroni, who proposed the subcommittees. Each subcommittee also had a vice chair.
The subcommittes were:
- Diversity & inclusion chaired by Neha Senthil
- Academic Achievement chaired by Bangari
- Outreach & Youth Engagement chaired by Mira Donaldson
- Health issues chaired by Mills
The last meeting of the Youth Council was held last month.
At that meeting, the 13-member Council created a fifth subcommittee focused on the environment & sustainability, as suggested by Petroni.
Petroni said she plans to hold a meeting in August for the second session of the Youth Council. At that meeting, she said as chair she will go over the rules, including the state’s open meeting law. The Council is required to adhere to all state laws for public meetings just like the City Council and the School Committee.
She also plans to explain the five subcommittees and take request for committee assignments. She said all committee members will serve on two subcommittees. She plans to assign the subcommittees by the second meeting of the second session.
Petroni said now that the Council has established rules, and subcommittees, and a good structure, she said the Council is primed to weigh-in on major issues that face youth in the city and propose changes to benefit youth, just like she proposed the Youth Council, which changed the City’s charter and gave youth a voice in City government.
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 the daughter of the publisher/editor of SOURCE.