The audience at the Monday, Aug. 11 Louisiana City Council meeting had a component rarely seen in the past; young people.
They were there to discuss the establishment of the Louisiana Youth Council, an idea spurred by Mayor Bart Niedner. The establishment of the youth council will be voted on next month by the city council.
It is now being formulated by city Intern Brett Bolton and University of Missouri Extension Community Development Specialist Ashley Sturm.
Sturm lives in Louisiana and works out of the extension office in Bowling Green. Sturm explained to the city council the reasons behind the proposed youth council.
“Working in community development, I hear more and more about the need for youth involvement,” Sturm said.
A Louisiana youth council could give another insight into city matters, improve youth programs identify Louisiana as youth friendly, Sturm said.
Research from a Nebraska non-profit on rural areas shows the number one reason youths don’t get involved in local government is that no one simply asks them, Sturm said. Those same rural youths also leave their home towns in droves.
Seventy percent say they would like to come back to their rural homes, Sturm said. Seventy percent also say they were never asked to engage with their community.
Many rural youths also think adults don’t care about what they think and dismiss them because of their age, Sturm added.
Several area youths in attendance told the city council why they should consider establishing a youth council.
“It’s important to get us involved and for us to have a voice,” said Louisiana High School Senior Samantha Pedersen.
A youth council would “allow city government to be open to new ideas,” said college student Chase Hunt. It would also bridge the generational communication gap and get young people interested in government early in their lives, he added.
“Youth needs to be heard. We can do a lot of stuff,” said Louisiana Middle School eighth grader Michelle Watts.
Ordinances needed to establish the youth council are slated to come before the city council’s ordinance committee next month.
If they are passed, the ordinances could move on for a full council vote on Monday, Sept. 8.