Mayors to field teen questions during Youth Congress
DENVER – More than 130 Douglas County School District (DCSD) high school students will be gathering at the State Capitol on Monday to not only meet local leaders, but to work together to solve issues on the students’ minds.
This is the eighth year of the Douglas County Youth Congress, organized by the Douglas County Youth Initiative (DCYI). The event is an opportunity for the students to share their voices on topics that are important to them with local leaders.
“What is cool about this is the local aspect of it,” explained Marsha Alston, the program manager of DCYI. She tells students, “You meet your local leaders and talk with them, but also let them talk with you about what you are interested in or concerned about. They want to hear from you.”
This year, mayors from cities across the county, including Castle Rock, Parker, and Lone Tree, as well as the leaders of DCSD, the Douglas County Libraries, and Highlands Ranch will be answering student questions during a panel.
“If you’ve ever wanted to ask a mayor something, this is your opportunity to do that,” Alston said.
Additionally, students will participate in breakout sessions on topics they suggested, including discussions including everything from criteria for snow days and dress codes to banning plastic bags and teen driving tickets. In every case, Alston works to team students up with local officials and experts.
“We are not just putting people in a room so you have an adult there. We are really working to have an expert in the topic,” Alston said.
The students not only have the opportunity to present their ideas to fellow students and elected leaders, but also are encouraged to consider avenues to create actual change.
“About four years ago we had a group that said, ‘if I’m in Littleton and then I go to Highlands Ranch, the curfew time is different. Then, if I go to Parker, it is different, and in Castle Rock it is different.’ So they actually came up with the idea for a county-wide curfew and presented it to the [Douglas County] Commissioners and it became legislated into law,” said Josh Martin, a Town of Parker councilmember, who has participated in several Youth Congress days.
Annually the event is held at the State Capitol, in downtown Denver, a perfect place for our future leaders to meet.
“It is important to have it at the capitol. I think it is such a fitting spot for it and gives it that air of importance. This is where it all happens,” Alston said.