HYATTSVILLE – Learning about how the government works is a part of every high school student’s classroom education, but eight students from Northwestern High School in Hyattsville are taking a more hands-on approach. The eight students now form the Teen Advisory Committee (TAC) to the Hyattsville City Council. The committee, which was created by the […]
HYATTSVILLE – Learning about how the government works is a part of every high school student’s classroom education, but eight students from Northwestern High School in Hyattsville are taking a more hands-on approach.
The eight students now form the Teen Advisory Committee (TAC) to the Hyattsville City Council. The committee, which was created by the council to “nurture youth engagement and facilitate a voice for youth concerns” in the community, will help the council “identify supportive and meaningful actions to improve or address issues of importance to the residents of Hyattsville,” according to the city’s website.
Saarah Abdul-Rauf, the coordinator of youth and recreation and the staff liaison to the TAC, said when she first heard about the committee she immediately thought it was something every school should already be doing and was a perfect opportunity for Hyattsville teens to be a part of their community.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity for teens to be a part of their community and the city that they live in. To advocate and produce change,” she said.
Abdul-Rauf said the committee, which had its second ever meeting last week, took everyone who applied, which was 10 initially with eight fully committing to the committee. Each teen applied with ideas and issues they wanted to take on in the committee.
Destiny Powers, a junior, said she decided to join after Prince George’s County Board of Education at-large member Mary Kingston-Roche, who helped bring the committee to fruition, spoke at Northwestern and asked the students if there was anything they cared about and wanted to take action on.
“That really made me want to join. I wanted to have a say because so many students, like in the hallways you hear, complain and it’s things that everyone wants to change but no one really does,” Powers said.
On the committee, Powers hopes to tackle issues such as trash and pollution in the local forest, a desire to relocate city deer to a more suitable habitat, and said she wants to be an advocate for other teens and her classmates.
Marlin Gutierrez, who is the junior class president, said she joined not only to improve her leadership skills, but to also act on the many complaints she has heard from her classmates, teachers and the parents around her.
“My issue is transportation,” she said. “The buses and everything. No one has really spoken up about it and I want to be the first.”
Charisse Clarke, a sophomore at Northwestern who wants to advocate for healthier lunches, said by having the TAC, she feels Hyattsville has put faith in its teenagers.
“We have issues we would like to address and now we have the power to do it,” she said.
Leydy Madrid agreed and said when she first heard that Hyattsville had created this committee she was surprised the city was giving power to teenagers.
“You don’t hear much about cities actually giving power to younger people,” Madrid said. “I think its great and more places should get something like this because I feel like if more places get it then we can all come together as one big group.”
Madrid said she hopes one day all of the different cities’ youth can come together to create change in the county.
Powers said she is thankful the city of Hyattsville gave the teens in the community a chance to raise their voice and a chance to grow in their skills of leadership, as well as a means to seek out opportunities in politics.
“I feel like this opportunity is going to open up a lot more doors for Hyattsville and kids around Hyattsville who do want to go into politics and have leadership skills. I feel like this program is going to go far,” she said.
“This is such a unique opportunity,” Northwestern junior Jonathan Wemple said. “Because it is not every day you’re going to get a say in what goes on in your local politics. That’s really cool – that we’re 16 and we’re all so young and we have this opportunity right now.”
Wemple said he hopes the city will start a group to help teenagers and young people going through tough times, or who need someone to talk to.
The teens won’t start taking on issues right away though, as the first few meetings are dedicated to talking about the committee’s role and what it means to be in the political sphere. Abdul-Rauf said the teens will also go through public speaking training and learn the ins-and-outs of the city council.
Despite only knowing each other as a group for a month, Madrid believes the committee is a strong one.
“We each bring something different and I feel that, as a group, each of our own individual qualities bring out a really strong group that can really do something,” she said.