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FRAMINGHAM – The Framingham City Council unanimously voted to create a Youth Council in 2019. The 13-member Youth Council was created after then Framingham High senior Isabella Petroni wrote an ordinance asking the legislative branch of the City to change the Charter to create a committee focused on the city’s youthssimilar to the Council on Aging which is focused on the City’s senior citizens.

The Youth Council is comprised of four at-large youths — two appointed by the at-large City Councilors and two by the Mayor for 2-year terms — and nine district Youth Councilors, appointed by their district counterpart on the City Council for a 1-year term.

The Youth Council created its own rules in its first session, and learned about how the city operates, inviting the Mayor, the Framingham Public School Superintendent, the School Committee Chair, and several City Councilors to its meetings.

The Youth Council had planned to host a Youth Summit in 2020, but plans were put on hold due to the COVID pandemic.

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The Youth Council meets typically on Sundays twice a month, and has five subcommittees.

The Council this session has proposed ordinances on voting age and menustral products, taken positions on several issues including gun violenceBelknap pool, and focused on mental health, school re-opening plans, and social justice issues.

The Council has also held sessions with State Rep. Jack Patrick Lewis, Rep. Maria Robinson, Keefe Tech Superintendent Jonathan Evans and Framingham Superintendent Bob Tremblay this second session.

As the Youth Council has not been able to hold its planned youth summit yet or conduct outreach & engagement in-person, SOURCE asked each Youth Councilor to participate in a Q&A to introduce them to the community. The Q&A sessions will publish this month.

The City Council will be taking applications for the third session of the Youth Council later this spring with appointments to start on July 1, 2021 and to end on June 30, 2022. Framingham youths from middle school, high school, and college, ages 13-22 can apply.

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District 3 Youth Councilor Haley Strange

Age: 17

Pronouns: they/them

School: Framingham High

Favorite subject in school: History

Favorite book: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Favorite musical artists: Conan Gray, Mother Mother, Falling in Reverse

Last thing you streamed: Netflix: Criminal Minds, Music: Caught Like A Fly by Falling In Reverse, Disney+: Lilo & Stitch

Favorite fun activity: Playing Call of Duty with my dad

ZOOM happy or ZOOM fatigued? Definitely a little bit of both.

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Hobbies: Painting, writing, gaming

Favorite place in Framingham: Home or one of my friends houses, I don’t really go anywhere.

10 years from now I want to be (career) A high school history teacher.

Why did you want to be a Youth Council member? I saw it as an opportunity to finally be able to make a positive impact on more than just a few people at a time. 

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Do you think there is a divide in the City of Framingham?  If yes, how can it be fixed? If no, why not?  Yes, I definitely think there is. I don’t know if it can be fixed or not because both sides seem pretty stuck in their ways. 

The 13-member Framingham Youth Council represents middle school, high school, and college-age students. What is the biggest issue facing youth in Framingham in 2021? I would say it has to be mental health. We are still restricted from seeing a lot of friends, going out to many places, and even going to school normally. Everything changed for us in 2020 in a matter of weeks, and a lot of us are just waiting for things to go back to normal. 

How can the Youth Council encourage more youths ages 13-22 to become engaged in government and their community? We can talk about it to our friends and make it seem like the fun experience it is!

What person has inspired you the most? How? My mom. She is a very strong woman who has been through so much. In October, she suffered three minor strokes to the brain stem. The doctors told us the odds were she would probably either be in a coma, or fully paralyzed, but not even 12 hours later she was able to move all four of her limbs. She is still in a skilled nursing home and she has made so much progress! She has gone from not being able to talk or move much, to walking with help, and having full on conversations with us! She inspires me in other ways too, she has been an amazing mother and taught me how to be the compassionate and loving person I am. I can’t choose just one person who inspires me, because my dad does as well. He is every bit as strong as my mom is. Since my mom has been away since October, my dad has had to take on the role of single father and learn how to parent my sister and I alone. He also has tons of phone calls a day because he still works, and has to sort things out for my mom all the time, like hospital equipment. He has been my number one supporter ever since everything happened with my mom and he has been here for me through everything. I can’t imagine how hard this must be for him, and he is so strong to be able to get through it with a smile on his voice and happiness in his heart. I’m so happy he never lost his sparkle.  

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Adults just don’t understand how social media works! 

If money was not an issue, what would make life better for the youths in the city? The obvious answer is a lot more free things and more places to hang out. 

Describe Framingham in 3 words: familiar, home, diverse

Framingham is missing  a pride parade! 

What have you learned as a member of the Youth Council?  I have learned that it’s not as scary to voice my suggestions and ideas as I originally thought it would be!

What do you want to accomplish on the Youth Council before you leave? I would like to help take steps to make Framingham a safe place for anyone who chooses to reside here, no matter race, sexual orientation, gender, or religion.

Haley and Bongo the gerbil

By editor

Susan Petroni is the former editor for SOURCE. She is the founder of the former news site, which as of May 1, 2023, is now a self-publishing community bulletin board. The website no longer has a journalist but a webmaster.