BY JENNY GOLDSBERRY
Like most other cities, Syracuse has a city council. In addition, they have a separate youth council which many cities don’t. For Syracuse, it’s been a huge advantage to have youth pursuing projects all over the city.
The youth council started in the late 80s. Syracuse elected DeLore W. Thurgood as Mayor in 1985. He served until 1991, but not without making some lasting impacts. Under his administration, the youth council began. He even started publishing a quarterly newsletter, which would later become the Syracuse Connection magazine you’re reading now.
Nearly 30 years later, the council is still going strong. Not even COVID-19 could kill it. The council continues via the ideas of each council member. When a new member joins, their experience is completely up to them. They decide what projects to pursue and even pitch new ideas to Councilmember Lisa Bingham, who helps guide the youth council.
Currently, the youth council put together a booth at a mental wellness event. Communities That Care hosted car crash survivor, Sarah Frei, as an inspirational speaker. Even James Violet of The Voice made an appearance at their event.
Members aren’t just teenagers interested in politics; they get insight into all sorts of city departments. In addition to their project management, every member is paired with a volunteer advisor. These are residents with lifelong careers and wisdom to share. Then, on top of that, they get to know a new city department every month. Emergency services have hosted them for ride-alongs. Food pantries have given tours and service inspiration for some members. Everything from the Syracuse Museum to local schools are possible project locations.
Lisa Bingham has been the liaison to the council for the past two years. She’s seen how the members become mentors to younger kids. Often, kids like hearing from other kids. The council has plans to visit more local schools in the works. As a result, kids would actually take their advice.
“Kids aspire to be them, they emulate them,” Lisa said. She’s seen kids inspired to make better choices because of the examples from the council.
Currently, there are seven members. But there’s no limit to the number of members. There’s no hourly commitment; just come participate once a month, and you can be a part of the Youth City Council too. So, if you have an idea of some change you’d like to see in Syracuse, consider joining the Youth City Council to see it through.