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Youth Voice at the Local Level

Page history last edited by collura@wisc.edu 11 years ago

Note: please note that this issue overview should (a) contain links to information on this topic that is focused either the local, state, national, or global level, and (b) be neutrally presented, based on facts, and include footnotes for each of the items.  See the Research Guide and Information Sources to assist you. 



Goal Statement   one sentence that further defines the topic 

The goal is to involve youth in meaningful local level public decision-making in Wisconsin.  The inclusion of youth as age and maturity allows should become the norm at all levels of local public decision-making.  It is further expected that these efforts fully include youth of diverse backgrounds and interests.



Policy Options / Model Programs   specific policies or program models, grouped by type, that are profiled 


Youth on Local Governing Boards:  There are two options within this model.  The first allows youth to serve directly on the county board or city council and cast advisory votes.  The second model is for youth to serve on a county or city committee; youth may be regular voting members on committees or cast advisory votes, depending on local statutes.


     Model Advantage:  The model introduces youth to the workings of local government while providing opportunities to make effective                                              change in the community.

     Model Disadvantage:  It may be challenging to gain majority support to implement a youth council.


Example of Youth on County Board of Supervisors


Three youth representatives serve on the Washburn County Board of Supervisors.  The youths' role is similar to the elected officials - they   are responsible for preparing, attending, and participating in each county board meeting.  They express their opinions and ask questions when necessary.  Youth representatives cast an advisory vote on the presented issue before the adult board members vote.  Both youth and adult members' votes are published in the local newspaper.


Example of Youth on City Council Committees


In the city of Waupaca, youth are appointed as full voting members to seven city council committees.  The city council has a spot on their agenda specifically for youth.  Young people have used this opportunity to advocate for spaces that expanded space, equipment and programs at both the recreation center and library.


Youth Advisory Councils to Local Executives:  a council established to advise a mayor or County Executive on issues impacting youth


     Model Advantage:  This model does not require the majority support and thus can be easily implemented by a motivated governor.


     Model Disadvantage:  Youth representatives only advise one individual, narrowing their potential influence and tying the council's existence

         to the motives of the executive.  Councils may not continue when a new administration is elected.


Example of Mayoral Youth Advisory Board


Appleton Mayor's Youth Advisory Board has 16  youth members from all four of the area's high schools, including home-schooled students.  This board advises the Mayor on behalf of all city youth and acts as a conduit between youth and adults to promote awareness of city government actions.  In the past, this board has conducted voter registration drives to increase the youth vote in the city, with an emphasis on high school seniors.


Youth Serving on School Boards:  students are appointed or popularly elected to represent their peers on the School Board


     Model Advantage: This model gives youth a voice in the form of government that most directly impacts their daily lives.


     Model Disadvantage:  Youth are restricted to issues pertaining to school-related decisions and not exposed to the broad spectrum of                     issues impacting youth.


Example of Youth on School Boards


In the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), a high school student representative and an alternate are elected by their peers to serve one calendar year on the school board.   The student representative has all the responsibilities of a School Board member, except those prohibited by law, and casts an advisory vote.  The representative meets regularly with the Madison student senate and middle school student council presidents.  In addition, the elected youth representative writes a monthly column for each school's newspaper to update students on the current activities of the school board.


Communitywide Youth Coalitions:  youth serve on coalitions sponsored by local government entities and/or local non-profits, the coalition works on youth issues of mutual concern


     Model Advantage:  This option offers the most opportunities for youth to have their voice heard on public issues.  Youth involvement can

          take a variety of forms from formal leadership roles to advocacy efforts in organizing public forums or youth-led research.


     Model Disadvantage:  A young person's link to public decision-making is more indirect than in the previous program models.


Example of Communitywide Youth Coalitions


Port Washington Saukville United for Youth is a communitywide coalition in Ozaukee County.   The coalition, comprised of both youth and adults, is working on improving relationships with local law enforcement.  In addition, the coalition provides input to youth members on the Park and Recreation board, Business improvement district, and the Chamber of Commerce.


Local/State/National Information    additional information on this topic at the local, state, national, global level



Glossary of Terms   key words or phrases that the layperson needs to know to understand this issue 

  • youth voice - the participation of youth in decision-making processes




  • Calvert, M.  & Allen, S. (2009).  Advancing youth voice in Wisconsin:  A white paper.

  • Camino, L. & Zeldin, S. (2003).  From periphery to center: Pathways for youth civic engagement in the day-to-day life of communities.  Applied Developmental Science, 6(4), 213-220.

  • Jerde, L. (2009).  Saluting flag: County board's youth effort starts.  Portage Daily Register.  Retrieved March 10, 2009 from http://portagedailyregister.com/news/local/article_ef2f7b0c-edc8-11dd-b60f-001cc4c03286.html

  • University of Wisconsin-Extension, Wisconsin 4-H Youth Development.  (2009).  Youth in Governance: Wisconsin.  Retrieved April 5, 2009 from http://www.uwex.edu/ces/4h/yig

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