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 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 violence, Belknap 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.
At-Large Youth Councilor Isabella Petroni
School: University of New England (Biddeford, ME)
Framingham District: 8
Favorite subject in school: History
Favorite book: On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson
Favorite musical artist: Dua Lipa, Elton John, Blue Oyster Cult
Last thing you streamed: Dead Poets Society
Favorite fun activity: Creative Writing
ZOOM happy or ZOOM fatigued? ZOOM fatigued
Hobbies: Dancing, Writing, Reading
Favorite place in Framingham: Farm Pond
10 years from now I want to be an environmental lawyer
Why did you want to be a Youth Council member? I wanted to be able to be an advocate for the youth in Framingham. I felt that our voice wasn’t always heard or considered in important decisions. I wanted to be able to have a legitimate position to be able to confront the lack of youth in political decisions.
Do you think there is a divide in the City of Framingham? If yes, how can it be fixed? If no, why not?
I definitely feel there is a divide in the City of Framingham. The tensions held during the time of Framingham North and Framingham South have continued to this day despite that it has been decades since those schools existed. It feels like an intergenerational problem that has been inherited by the youth of Framingham. I feel that the only way for this to be fixed is to be able to gain more political voices from the Southside, especially from underrepresented districts, to be able to balance out the amount of power gained by the Northside.
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? Mental Health which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic
How can the Youth Council encourage more youths ages 13-22 to become engaged in government and their community?
I feel that the Youth Council has been inhibited by its freshman status among the municipal boards, committees, and commissions. The COVID-19 pandemic occurring during the Youth Council’s formative years has not helped either. I feel the Youth Council can encourage more youth to engage with government is to be able to connect youth’s interests with what’s currently happening in the city. If one is interested in environmental issues, the Youth Council can connect them to the Parks and Recreation Commission or the Conservation Commission, or local environmental leaders. Many youth have interests inspired by issues at a national level. It just requires connecting their national issues to ones occurring within Framingham.
What person has inspired you the most? How? Judy Grove. I have always been interested in the environment and nature since I was a young age. But Grove helped me refine my interest to one of advocacy and environmental justice. I was helped to transform my environmentalism into one based on helping the working class and underrepresented communities and focus on creating equitable solutions to solving environmental and climate problems.
Adults just don’t understand that mutual respect is necessary to be able to have a conversation with someone younger than you, not just obedience to the oldest in the room
If money was not an issue, what would make life better for the youths in the city? Be able to provide 100% renewable energy to every household in the city of Framingham and have open space in every neighborhood
Describe Framingham in 3 words: Diverse, Chaotic, Busy
Framingham is missing a community center, especially one for helping the youth of Framingham
It would be great if Senator Edward Markey would attend a Youth Council meeting to discuss youth involvement in issue advocacy such as climate change
What have you learned as a member of the Youth Council? The ability to be a leader and balancing collaboration with guidance as Chair of the Youth Council
What do you want to accomplish on the Youth Council before you leave? Be able to host the Framingham Youth Summit and having the City Council and the Mayor vote on a home rule petition to allow the municipal voting age to be lowered to 16